Clamours over plight

by Tauqeer Abbas

Shafaqna Pakistan: Following a spree of cases of violence against women, protests have erupted nationwide. Cases ranging from murders to sexual violence have begun to rise in the country, with activists demanding that action be taken against the culprits.

These protests have come in both the real and virtual, with demonstrations carried out across major cities, especially in front of press clubs. On social media, multiple hashtags are dominating narratives, with activists highlighting the plight of women. The Aurat Azadi March, affiliated with the annual rights march on Women’s Day, has become a prominent voice on women’s rights on the streets and on the web.

Activists note how violence against women in Pakistan is rampant, a country where women have made their mark in the world. Women like Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairperson Benazir Bhutto, who led the country as the prime minister, Sharmeen Ubaid Chinoy, who was awarded with Oscars for her work and Malala Yousafzai, a noble peace laureate who stood for girls education and many more. Yet Pakistan ranked 153rd out of 156 nations on the Global Gender Gap 2021 index by the World Economic Forum.

Women in Pakistan continue to be subjected to sexual violence, misogynistic remarks, killed in the name of honour, raped in front of their children, beaten mercilessly, attacked with acid and harassed publicly.

In one such latest nerve-racking incident of violence against women was witnessed last month when Noor Muqaddam, daughter of former Pakistani ambassador, who was raped before killing and later her headless body was recovered from the house of Zahir Jaffar, the son of a business tycoon operating in sectors like power, technology and agriculture. The accused later confessed to killing her.

According to reports, Zahir Jaffar said Noor Mukaddam was betraying him. “I stopped her after knowing about her betrayal but she denied which made me angry,” he added. It was also reported that the mother of the accused and the security guards hid the incident for 3 hours. Reports reiterate that Noor Muqaddam’s life could have been saved if the mother or the security guards had informed on time.

In September last year, a woman who had ran out of fuel on a motorway, was kidnapped and gang raped by men in front of her children. The incident sparked outcry in the country. In December, new rape laws were passed, offering faster trials and tougher sentences.

In May this year, Mayra Zulfiqar, a 24-year-old law graduate of Pakistani origin who was a Belgian national, was found dead with bullet wounds in her rented flat.

“The state needs to step up before another woman is killed — with only her name left on a placard. Scrutiny, protests, and swift police action are no guarantees of justice; the criminal justice system also has to work,” noted Rimmel Mohydin, South Asia campaigner for Amnesty International.

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said, “From domestic violence to sexual exploitation, trafficking, child marriage, female genital mutilation and online harassment, violent misogyny has thrived in the shadow of the pandemic.”

The parliament of Pakistan last month again failed to pass legislation that seeks to protect women from domestic violence. Instead the parliament asked Council of Islamic Ideology to weigh in on the measures. The council had previously said it was OK for a husband to beat his wife.

Experts say cases of violence against women are underreported in Pakistan. However, analysts maintain that the few cases that make it to social media are a representation of the state of affairs of women rights in the country. The list of women facing violence, being killed and raped, is unending.

Through protests and demonstrations, women in Pakistan and across the globe have been trying to overcome the gaps in women’s rights. Thousands of women have rallied across Pakistan and demanded an end to violence against women and gender minorities.

The activists reiterate that a change in mindsets is imperative in Pakistan and is a goal for which Aurat March has been mobilising women and men.

Source: The Nation (Writer: Sania Arif)

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