It’s the time when the slogan ‘orange the world’ makes sense to all women’s rights activists – the 16 days of activism for elimination of violence against women. This...
It’s the time when the slogan ‘orange the world’ makes sense to all women’s rights activists – the 16 days of activism for elimination of violence against women. This year, the UN has put forward the theme of increased domestic violence during the Covid-19 pandemic for the November 26 Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Pakistan, of course, is no stranger to violence on the basis of gender. It has seen an alarmingly increasing rate of rape cases come out in the open recently. There can be little doubt that during Covid-19 and the lockdown that ensued, with people spending more hours within their homes, domestic violence increased in most countries. As it is, quite many Pakistani women, at least in urban areas, spend many hours behind closed doors and in some of the most remote parts of the country.
On the list compiled by the UN of well over 100 countries, ranked on the basis of violence inflicted on women, Pakistan occupies the sixth place, with the first country on the list suffering the highest degree of violence. This does not augur well for the women in the country. In recent years, we have seen more laws come in against domestic violence, rape, and other forms of violence against women but these are basically meaningless, unless they are properly implemented with the police force trained in how to do so. The role of extremist organisations and also constitutional bodies in holding back laws on domestic violence further obstructs justice in a country where there are well over 1000 honour killings each year, where four women are raped each day and where thousands of children suffer sexual assault on an annual basis.
Pakistan, therefore, needs to take these days as an opportunity to do better by the women that live here. The fact is that the Pakistani woman feels unsafe – at home, on the street, at the workplace, in school, in college and everywhere else. The head of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has also called for Muslim countries to be more alert about violence suffered by women and to act against that. We need to desperately do everything we can to protect women and girls, who are often blamed for the violence they suffer on the grounds that talking about emotional abuse is simply a sign of oversensitivity or that women have somehow brought rape upon themselves. Even government ministers have helped give rise to this terrible myth. The Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is an important one for Pakistan, as it is for the world – and these 16 days should be dedicated to raising awareness over what has assumed epidemic-like proportions – violence against women.