Amidst the daily dose of drama offered by the country’s politics, it may be easy to forget that Pakistan has for some time now been facing a violence against women emergency. Headline-making...
Amidst the daily dose of drama offered by the country’s politics, it may be easy to forget that Pakistan has for some time now been facing a violence against women emergency. Headline-making cases from just the past few years are enough to show what alarming proportions this has taken. And we are not even counting the daily abuse women face, the stories that don’t make it to the news pages, and the many women that struggle to just exist – if not live. The latest tale of horror comes from Faisalabad, originally in the form of two video clips that show a young woman being abused, reportedly at the behest of an influential businessman from Faisalabad.
It seems that with every new case of violence against a woman, the brutality within our society is exposed to new levels. In the Faisalabad case, the videos show the most horrifying humiliation, torture and violence. The fact that a woman was made to go through all that, just for saying no to a man’s proposal, is a reflection of just how non-existent concepts of consent, equality and respect are when it comes to the women of Pakistan. The Faisalabad women’s police station has booked 15 suspects for abduction, extortion, and sexual assault inflicted on the young woman, a final-year dentistry student. Almost as though on cue, there is a video now of the victim absolving the Faisalabad businessman who stands in the middle of this crime of all wrongdoing. Lest anyone forgets, the judicial-legal system in the country is notoriously apathetic to the high level of vulnerability of victims and their families. Either victims feel so insecure that they prefer not to testify against the culprits, or their families face intimidation and come under tremendous pressure while pursuing such cases. It can never be overemphasized that the culprits involved in these cases must face the law. And the state is responsible for offering complete protection to victims, their families and all witnesses.
Women are seen as the easiest target everywhere – from their homes to their friend’s places to public gatherings. In most cases the culprits somehow manage to evade justice despite quick arrests. More than 14,000 rape cases were reported in Pakistan in the last four years according to official figures of the Ministry of Human Rights. Total cases of sexual violence and harassment against women exceeded the 16,000 mark in four years. These figures do not include the numerous cases that go unreported. Despite an increasing frequency of such cases, successive governments have been unable to take effective measures to curb such crimes. The only way forward is to demand that the state finally starts to see women as equal citizens, and ensures that access to equal justice and equal laws is available to them as per the constitution. We can start by simply believing that women are not objects or animals to either be guarded or tamed. They are human, and there must be a cost for hurting them.