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May 10, 2021

Vulnerable women

 
May 10, 2021

The hashtag #WhyWeMarch may have started off as an explanation for the annual Aurat March held in the country, but goes beyond a specific time or date. This is because every day brings with it some new horror story featuring women being killed, raped, threatened, harassed or abused. Just a few days back, a young woman was found shot dead in a house in Lahore. The Belgian national was reportedly killed because she turned down proposals of marriage from two men. That may sound unbelievable, but this is just how dispensable women’s lives are.

The smallest excuse, the slightest provocation, any pretext that can be found – and a woman is abused or killed or raped. On the grounds of family ‘honour’, women can be killed because they choose to talk to a person of the opposite sex, because they are deemed to be improperly dressed by members of their family, because they put up videos on TikTok or other social media Apps or because of other kinds of behaviour involving romance, which is not approved by the family. In other cases, women have been killed over matters such as domestic disputes involving a matter as trivial as preparing food at the right time. That so many of their killers go unpunished is not just because family members, often complicit in the crime itself, can forgive the murderers. It is because the authorities themselves may too be sympathetic to the idea of ‘honour’ killings and punishment of women for behaving outside of the set moral framework.

These incidents have not appeared to decrease over the years, although this could be because they are reported more often. However, it is quite obvious that we are not turning into a more civilised society. In fact, we appear to be going from bad to worse. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has already delivered a ruling on the right of women to marry of their choice. It is only when we as a society decide that women have the right to live their lives independently without having to fear for their lives that cases like Myra’s (the woman murdered in Lahore) and so many hundreds of others will become less common. The reality is that legislative efforts – and there have been many – are not met with appropriate policies on the ground. It is estimated that around 70-90 percent of married women in Pakistan suffer from domestic abuse. The damage suffered ranges from emotional to physical. However, even getting laws across the table on this issue has been a major hurdle for various provincial governments. A coherent and concerted effort is needed to reduce violence against women – and this will need more than just law-making. Till then, women will continue to march for theirs and others’ rights.