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March 9, 2016

‘Beating up women still not a crime’


March 9, 2016


There are laws in Pakistan dealing with violence against women, but none of them proscribes as to how the State would punish the perpetrator – to be precise, beating up women is yet to be criminalised, renowned rights activist Marvi Sirmed said on Tuesday.

As she uttered these words, the audience at a conference titled, “Hum Aurtain- No More Violence”; organised by the Tehreek-e-Niswan, cried out loud, “Shame!.”

Kicking off the session on the topic of domestic violence, Sirmed bravely narrated the anecdotes she had faced at her workplace. “We have regularly observed that when a woman complains of sexual harassment, the general response of her colleagues is that ‘she is not even beautiful enough to be harassed’ or her moral integrity is questioned,” she noted.

While she appreciated that the State is finally legislating on women-related issues, Sirmed maintained that she had reservations over the loopholes left by the lawmakers. Lambasting clergymen’s criticism against women protection laws, the activist said the best that religious parties had come up with against civil society activists was that “they are too westernised”.

 “If with a Sari and a Bindi I am called westernised, then certainly it’s an ill-willed argument,” she added.

She said one major issue related to domestic violence was the sense of entitlement given to men over women, “When a girl gets beaten up, the family says she must have done something. That mindset prevails not just among families but also those running State institutions.”

Sirmed said no matter how much awareness non-governmental organisations raised on the issue; it would not yield results until the state criminalised the violence against women.

Speaking on the occasion, Heela Faryal, an Afghanistan-based activist, said in her country there had been an increase in moral persecution, jailing women for 10 to 15 years if they ran away from home over forced marriage. “After spending more than $60 billion in Afghanistan, the literacy rate in the country stands at 18 percent and considering the ground realities, the percentage is obviously exaggerated,” she added. “Only a unified, strong, women-led, and women-focused political struggle can bring abou the desired changes.”

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