Women are always subjected to violence everywhere in the world particularly in Pakistan. It is not yet clear who is reponsible for providing safety and justice for women. Can the United States play a role? Conditions for women living in tribal areas where a war against terrorism is being fought, is dismal at best.
The Post in its comment stated that according to data compiled by a local NGO, out of seven categories of violence against women, 901 cases of murder of women in Punjab took place last year. Such highest number of women murder cases is due to an inadequate and discriminatory legal framework for women victims seeking redress of their grievances. It is strange that out of 901 women murder cases, only 657 cases were registered with only 122 accused arrested.
The second most common form of violence against women was kidnapping. About 688 women were kidnapped, out of which only 449 cases were registered and 49 accused arrested. The data also shows that 500 women committed suicide, out of which 263 were married women and 237 single. Nearly 457 women were molested, but only 295 cases were registered. Out of 317 cases of physical torture and harassment, the number of cases reported in the media was 205. Approximately 230 women were physically tortured whereas 87 were sexually harassed and 100 others burnt deliberately over petty issues. Only 47 cases were registered, but three accused were arrested. Out of 74 domestic violence cases, only 36 were registered and 11 accused were arrested.
It is ironic that despite the presence of a law imposing death penalty for those found guilty of committing honour killings and the Women's Protection Act, cases of violence against women have not decreased.
It is the responsibility of the government to do more to eradicate such evil practices. It is also due to the fact that the male-dominated society is not ready to recognise women as equal human beings and grant them human rights and justice. If the government really thinks that merely passing legislation would help change the age-old social, cultural and traditional attitudes, then it is its mistake.
On the other hand, most women have no knowledge about their rights and are quietly suffering their troubled lives. The situation in urban areas is a little better in the sense that due to education, women are more aware of their rights. The condition in the rural areas is opposite and women are treated badly there. There is no proper mechanism whereby women can ask for protection from their attackers. The law enforcement forces discourage women from filing any such cases and sometimes are even involved in torturing and molesting the already battered female victims who dare to raise their voice against any injustice.
The customs like vinni and swara (exchange of women, mostly young girls, to settle disputes) and karo kari (honour killings) are considered a norm. There are tall claims on the part of the government of giving more rights to women, but practically there is no major change. Mere giving 33 percent representation to the womenfolk is assemblies is no solution to this issue. Simple using the women rights issue for political gains is not sufficient to solve it, some practical steps are badly needed for the purpose.
These problems can be addressed properly only if women are encouraged to take up their issues themselves. Political empowerment is not a sufficient condition, but it is the first and utmost necessary condition for obtaining women's rights. A system based on equality and cooperation would lay the foundations for eliminating all forms of exploitation and oppression of women. Without taking some concrete steps towards women's incorporation into the mainstream polity, the very goal of giving Pakistani women their due place in society will remain unfulfilled.