Daugh­ters of the nation

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - Mashal Sahir

In Pak­istan, the most hor­ren­dous abuse of women is rape. Ac­cord­ing to statis­tics, 928 women were raped in Pak­istan in 2009. How­ever, most cases are never re­ported due to the hu­mil­i­a­tion at­tached to the vic­tim and also be­cause our 'ef­fi­cient' po­lice of­fi­cers ask em­bar­rass­ing ques­tions that add in­sult to in­jury

In­her­ently, when­ever the word 'woman' comes up, we pic­ture a dot­ing mother, a de­voted wife, a lov­ing sis­ter or an obe­di­ent daugh­ter. But why is a woman re­ferred to by the var­i­ous re­la­tion­ships as­so­ci­ated with her? Does she have no iden­tity of her own?

In Pak­istan, a woman's suf­fer­ing be­gins from the time of her birth and con­tin­ues till her death. The birth of a daugh­ter is seen as a rea­son for grief. In some cases, baby girls are even poi­soned and their bod­ies are left in dump­sters to rot. Even in ur­ban ar­eas, so-called 'mod­ern' fam­i­lies dis­crim­i­nate against their daugh­ters, al­though they refuse to ad­mit it. Through­out her child­hood and youth, a girl is de­nied most of her rights; she has to un­der­stand that she can­not join her brother to play out­side on the street and in­stead has to sit in­side and play with dolls even if that is not what she wants. She has to un­der­stand that it is al­right for her brother go out with his friends but not for her and she has to un­der­stand that even though her par­ents can af­ford to ed­u­cate her brother in an ex­pen­sive pri­vate ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tion, they can­not do so for her. Her par­ents de­cide what she wears, what she eats, who she talks to and even what she likes and, till the time she gets mar­ried, she is con­stantly trained to be­come an ideal wife, mar­riage be­ing her ul­ti­mate goal in life. Ex­press­ing dis­may at a girl's birth is not the only way to dis­crim­i­nate against her; tak­ing away her right of choice is also dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Fi­nally, when she grows up, she is mar­ried off to some­body her par­ents ap­prove of. At times, she barely knows the per- son she is get­ting mar­ried to. How­ever, if she re­fuses to sub­mit to her par­ents' wish, she is force­fully mar­ried off to a com­plete stranger. More­over, if a girl is found guilty or even sus­pected of hav­ing an 'il­licit' re­la­tion­ship with any man, it is com­mon in the ru­ral ar­eas of Pak­istan for fam­ily mem­bers to murder the girl. Ac­cord­ing to the Au­rat Foun­da­tion, there were 604 cases of hon­our killings re­ported in Pak­istan dur­ing the year.

Fur­ther­more, women are mar­ried off to com­plete strangers for all kinds of rea­sons. Among poor peo­ple in the ru­ral ar­eas, daugh­ters are sold for money. Also, they are mar­ried off in or­der to re­pay debts and set­tle dis­putes. There­fore, it is ob­vi­ous that in Pak­istan, a woman is con­sid­ered noth­ing more than a mere pos­ses­sion or an ar­ti­cle of trade. It is safe to say here that our ' ed­u­cated' class is far ahead of the il­lit­er­ate class, for they do not be­lieve in buy­ing girls in the name of mar­riage. On the con­trary, they not only take over the cus­tody of a girl, but also a good amount of dowry that ac­com­pa­nies her. Why give money for some­thing they can charge for? This 'tra­di­tion' crushes the dig­nity of a girl and makes her feel like a curse that some­one is will­ing to bear for a price. It is a pity that in our so­ci­ety a woman's sur­vival is im­pos­si­ble with­out the pres­ence of a man by her side.

Fi­nally, af­ter years of be­ing con­trolled, her reins are handed over to her hus­band and later to her chil­dren, who treat her like an im­ma­ture child who is in­ca­pable of mak­ing any de­ci­sions. A woman is not treated like an in­di­vid­ual in our coun­try, she is treated like a bur­den that one guardian trans­fers onto the next. Her fate now rests with these new guardians. Once again, her per­son­al­ity is re­de­fined ac­cord­ing to her hus­band's wishes. She is made to change her habits and her in­ter­ests and if she fails to do so, she is of­ten sub­jected to phys­i­cal tor­ture. Do­mes­tic vi­o­lence is an in­ex­tri­ca­ble fea­ture of our cul­ture, which in­cludes beat­ings, burn­ing and dis­fig­ur­ing of the face, mu­ti­la­tion and even murder. A mon­i­tor­ing ex­er­cise con­ducted by the law firm AGHS shows that from April to June this year, 122 cases of women be­ing burnt alive were re­ported in La­hore. How­ever, much of the vi­o­lence against women, par­tic­u­larly in the do­mes­tic sphere, goes un­re­ported.

Other than do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, women are abused in many other ways. In Pak­istan, the most hor­ren­dous abuse of women is rape. Ac­cord­ing to statis­tics, 928 women were raped in Pak­istan in 2009. How­ever, most cases are never re­ported due to the hu­mil­i­a­tion at­tached to the vic­tim and also be­cause our 'ef­fi­cient' po­lice of­fi­cers ask em­bar­rass­ing ques­tions that add in­sult to in­jury.

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