Recently in my Jan 17th post: 5 Worst Places In The World To Be A Woman, Pakistan was listed as number three, but thanks to human rights groups working to improve the lives of girls and women, Pakistan is taking small steps to make improvements for women and keep women alive.
Pakistan is an Islamic state and people take pride in following strict Islamic values, but Islam has granted a much respected social position to women and acknowledges the rights and privileges of the women in society. Unfortunately, Pakistan has taken a different direction. Islam sees women as equally important members of society as men, expects women will participate in society as much as men, and that no restrictions will be in place to keep women from assuming that position of importance.
Unfortunately, interpretations of Islam have led to Pakistani women being denied economic, social, civil and political rights. Women have been denied the right to education and the right to decide matters relating to their marriage and divorce. Women are denied these rights and therefore are also less likely to have any legal recourse for justice.
The devaluation of women has led to women having less choice about their lives and bodies, which has ultimately led to the perpetration of extreme violence on them. The government has done little to protect women and does not often punish those who harm women, though they are slowly trying to change this.
In Pakistan women are still in great danger of rape (and then later being killed because they were victims of rape), sex trafficking, domestic violence, and physical abuse such as: acid throwing, dowry murder, burning, and “honor” killings for a woman supposedly dishonoring the family. “Honor” killings continue to be reported daily and because the status of women is often based on the idea that what they do is a reflection of the family’s honor, the killers are often seen with sympathy. The government has done little to restrict the sale of acid or to punish those who use it to injure women.
According to Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission, approximately 1,000 women and girls die in honor killings annually. According to The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) it may be as many as 5,000.
*On the positive side:
Two laws passed in early December 2011, one that further criminalized certain practices of harming women and girls, like marrying off or essentially bartering/selling young girls to settle tribal disputes. Essentially slavery. Women and girls are viewed as property, not as full human beings. The other laws that passed place stricter punishment for for acid attacks. Only time will tell if the laws are enforced and women are actually protected like Islam would expect them to be.
The Pakistani society has usually adopted a hostile attitude towards the women. Their development in society is hindered due to many factors. In many areas, life is governed and regulated by strict beliefs and behavioral patterns. A woman has no say in any aspect of her life, including her marriage.
Laws must be in place to respect women in all areas of life and to promote women’s participation in the society.
In Karachi, Pakistan, a hotline has been put in place to help women in domestic violence situations. This is a ground breaking thing and there is still a long way to go in Pakistan, but a hotline like this is a HUGE step toward helping women, raising awareness and stopping violence against women. The group that began the hotline, called Madadgar (Helper), is the first of its kind in the nation. Though recently laws passed to protect women further, there is still a discrepancy in the help and assistance women actually receive and Madadgar will work toward trying to offer support around intimate partner violence.
Pakistan is trying to take steps to help women survive and be equal to men in the society. Much of why women are seen as less than is their lack of choice for themselves. And it’s a Catch 22, because they are seen as less than and choices are taken from them and as choice is taken further from them, they are seen as even less than.
Women’s worth and value as human beings in Pakistan culture and society is so low that they are more easily targeted for horrible violence. This is also happening in the U.S. to a different degree.
If, in the U.S., we continue to restrict women’s choices over their bodies and selves, we will be inviting further violence against women.