Carriage of Communal Silence

by Tauqeer Abbas

Shafaqna Pakistan: “HANG THEM! DESTROY THEM! HUMILATE THEM! We won’t stay home so that they can grow”. The girl holding this placard on the Lahore motorway rape case had have never imagined that after a few months people across the country will be holding placards saying “Justice for Noor” on her gruesome murder. The Margala Hills and streets of the capital city will never be exonerated for decades and epochs of silence and irrelevance attached to this cataclysmic episode. State and society both have shown ignorance to the women of the land of pious and virtuous. Insensitive behavior on a communal level is scaling up into a large societal issue of rampant misogyny, toxic social behaviors and a patriarchal social capture.

The capital city has witnessed the brutish and tragic ends of a young educated girl as well as a woman stabbed to death with her ten months old son. Lack of action of street guards, parents and the vicinity led to this barbaric episode and at communal level, we all are complicit. We observed an insensitive behavior by those who were recording the statement of an injured, raped lady, when she was in urgent need of medical help to rescue her life who died resultantly. The same toxic attitude has been experienced in the motorway rape case wherein victim blaming emerged as the first discussion course, irrespective of the atrocious crime.

Violence towards women has hundreds of expressions and thousands of tragic tales in this part of the world, from the episode of the gang rape of Mukhtaran Bibi of Multan, murder of Qandeel Baloch a media star, rape and killing of ten years old Zainab in Kasur, a teenager who was stoned to death in Kirthar Hills and to the heinous murder of young educated girl Noor Mukadam in the metropolis of Pakistan. The problem is uglier, grimmer and grubbier than it sounds. Misogynistic culture, ‘Frailty, thy name is women’, has spread out of the world of Shakespeare and the culture of sexism and misogyny has been deeply entrenched in the land of the Subcontinent.

Communal silence and irrelevance has its cost, which has multiplied and manifested into thousands of deaths of women in Pakistan. In the span of a few weeks, there have been multiple cases of violence against women. The classic example of societal indifference is wherein the victim, a girl, had been dragged on the streets in front of guards but none reported to the law enforcement agencies. “Had the police been called in time my daughter would have been saved” the father of young girl sorrowfully expressed his concerns to the media. The guard informed the murderer’s parents rather than the police. His parents called “Therapy Works,” a team of therapists, run by their own family, instead of the police as well. In such cases, should the people around the victims be convicted for aiding and abetting the murders and violence and showing irrelevance to the situations or should our communal conscience be castigated and reprimanded?

The Domestic Violence Bill is still on hold in Pakistan. Violence against women is a major public health problem and violation of human rights. According to estimates published by the WHO, globally, about one out of three women have been subject to either physical or sexual violence by intimate partners or non-partners. Globally, as many as thirty eight percent of all murders of women are committed by intimate partners. Pakistan ranked in 151st position of 153 countries at Global Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum. Domestic violence in Pakistan is an endemic social and public security problem and around five thousand women are killed per year.

Violence locks women in poverty. It limits women’s choices, ability to access education, living and participation in public life. One of the most widespread of violation of human rights is that thirty five percent of women experience violence and poverty in a vicious cycle. This not only divides communities but also undermines the progress towards building just and peaceful societies. UN-women published “RESPECT women”– a framework for preventing violence against women. Each letter of RESPECT stands for seven strategies. Transformed attitudes, beliefs and norms is the key strategy. For each of these strategies, there are various interventions at varying degrees. It also highlights that successful interventions are those that prioritize safety of women, whose elements involve challenging unequal gender power relationships that address the multiple risk factors attached to vulnerability of women.

The policy makers and politicians in Pakistan are silent on the “Domestic Violence Bill”. What derives the power echelon into inaction? Is it fear of going against the flow of cultural biases or fear of being a social outcast? Khadija Siddiqui’s case is another tragic tale in the annals of the legal landscape, wherein the accused had been granted remission on account of donating payments of the requested fines of Arsh and Daman and didn’t even complete the five-year jail sentence he had been given. This all sounds a lot like Pakistan is no more country for women.

There is a great void in communal preventive stages to punitive levels for access to justice in the crimes against women. The irresolute and vacillating inaction both validate the social approval and absorption of violence against all the vulnerable segments of society. The dynamics of blaming the victim, judging a women’s character to determine whether she really was victim or not, are deep rooted in our patriarchal social domain. Enactment of the “Domestic violence Against Women Act,” is important to all provinces, equipped with legislations that are instrumental to addressing the cases of violence against women. Although, anti-honor killing laws had been beefed up in 2016 after the high-pitched murder case of Qandeel Baloch, but the legislation has not been invoked in its real terms. The government can put strong laws in place, enforce them and bring perpetrators to justice. On societal levels, tolerant cultures and values of forbearance are required to be nurtured by design. If the relevant law had been implemented in its true terms, it would have been a great knock back to the vicious circle of murder and acquittal collusion against women.

The state of melancholy for the rights of women has been sneaked into the social composition and communal landscape. The male honor, in this terrain, is brutally balanced with the incarceration, honor, subjection, subjugation and finally the death of women folk. These humble souls submit their solicitation to their honor, restoration proxies, law architects, communal nobles and more essentially and deeply, their families. Women’s honor works in a painful causativeness and unexpected consequences for the women in our culture.

Patriarchal sins will keep on adding in count and violence against women is not avoidable till today and every day. We, as community must speak out forcefully of our zero tolerance towards all forms of violence against women. We can move closer to a world with women friendly ecosystems wherein they can live free from fear, violence, discrimination and enjoy equal opportunities and mutual respect leading towards a peaceful society.

‘A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim’ as advocated by Maya Angelou, through the power of ‘Phenomenal Woman’ and she challenged the world of conventions and stereotypes and her sonnets are echoing for justice for Noor Muqaddam and women of all ages and times. You may write me down in history, With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt, But still, like dust, I’ll rise. Leaving behind nights of terror and fear, I rise, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise, I rise, I rise.

Source: The Nation (Writer: Iffat Farooq)

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