VIOLENCE against women in Pakistan is nothing new to hear, although there are several laws for protection of women, yet unfortunately the formidable challenges are still faced by women in their struggle to achieve gender-equality.
The laws if not enforced by the state are useless, as evident from the recent incident of the unjustified brutal murder of four women social workers in Mirali, North Waziristan in a terrorist attack. The attack is a slap in the face of the state, the state which has absolved itself of the responsibility to enforce laws of women protection. Worst than that, the disownment of the deceased from a local organization as their workers is perhaps a big question mark on credibility of local organizations and their security policies.
Salute to shores of Pakistan, sacrificing their lives for women empowerment in a terrorist attack in North Waziristan.
Different kinds of violence exercised on women through Hostile sexism (overtly negative evaluation as women being inferior to men) or benevolent sexism (protect & preserve women through excessive care) are deep-rooted in Pakistani society. Through stereotyping of women, patriarchy is promoted and consequently a certain mindset is developed where women are not accepted as humans let alone equal to men. Therefore, increase in incidents of violence on women as; honor killing; anti-feminist customs like Swara/vani; females rape cases; female infanticide; ogling at girls/women in public places; workplace harassment and lustfully touching fully or partially covered bodies of women by passersby, are not suspiring in Pakistani society. There is clearly an extensive rhetoric about women empowerment through their financial independence, involvement in decision-making processes and their representations at leading roles in non-governmental organizations and at government level, yet in day light in the village of Ippi, near Mirali, North Waziristan the vehicle of 4 women is attacked and 4 precious lives are untimely and mercilessly taken away from us.
It would not be wrong to say that the murder of those innocent aid workers is a threat to all women workers countrywide. The feelings of fear and agony are prevailing in the womenfolk across the country over the cruel killing of women bread-earners in North Waziristan. Their dreams of brighter future would possibly bury with them, but their indomitable and invincible devotion towards women empowerment to work in a tough area would further ignite the passion to struggle for gender equity in the Merged Districts particularly.
It is obvious that by killing the terrorists as, commander Hassan Alias Sajna of TTP who is declared by the Security Forces to be involved in killing of those four innocent women, could possibly help in promptly lessening the feelings of anger and anguish among the public, however, the sad incident is a call towards working on the beliefs and attitudes of masses towards gender insensitivity. Such beliefs are embedded in the anti-feminists customs and rituals practiced without any conscious efforts to understand its grave repercussions on the society as a whole. Moreover, protecting women clearly needs more efforts than paperwork as executing women protection laws and policies, or chanting for women rights, slogans of freedom for women in Aurat March and alike, but more importantly continuous and conscious efforts to break gender stereotyping by challenging the patriarchal system through updated curricula in schools, promoting literature based on gender equality and inclusion for children, sensitization sessions for youth on gender issues and by banning the songs or movies/dramas which showcase women as objects, but unfortunately the state authorities and NGOs become either apathetic or complicit in such important matters .
This is not to say that gender equality is insignificant in Pakistan. It is crucial in such a context where cultural norms relegate women to subservient roles and render them highly vulnerable. It is commendable particularly in view of the fact that both the governmental and non-governmental organizations are working towards women empowerment which is evident from increased participation of women at different levels, the enactment of progressive laws to protect and punish violence against women, including laws against domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace yet it is never enough to work consistently and wisely for such needed cause.
The linking of equal rights for women as an ‘anti-Islam’ agenda continues to haunt and impede the movement of women empowerment. Discussion on women’s rights, at some point, is taken as a threat to cultural and religious norms due to lack of proper knowledge of religion and lack of awareness among public. As a matter of fact, in the existing patriarchal society the brutal killing of 4 women would be blamed on the poor victims for working in North Waziristan by lay women/men rather than understanding the widespread misogyny in the society. Consequently, women would be stopped or discouraged to work with NGOs by many families, and thus once again limiting the scope of work, career choices, and opportunities for women in Pakistan.
In a nutshell, rights are never given without fight for them and thus the various styles of expression of outrage of women for their exploitation and victimization through sacrifice of their lives for other women as in the case of these four heroes of Pakistan, through literature, art, or Aurat March are to be well appreciated, valued and well-understood.