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Constitution of Pakistan guarantees the rights of women and do not discriminate in any sphere of life. The basis of Pakistani constitution is Islam; a religion that has secured the rights of women fourteen hundred years ago.
In Pakistan; Mukhtaran Mai, Dr. Shazia and various other women have been raised internationally because of the corrupt character of our moth eaten justice, social and political system. In order to avail political power, dictators like General Zia-ul-Haq tried to placate the fundamentalist Mullahs by launching Hudood Ordinance.
The society is silent over social customs like Karo-Kari, Vaani, Swara and several other atrocities of the retrogressive people. Finally, the last hope, the justice system, is itself a victim of political interference.
Let us see why women rights are being denied and exploited in Pakistan, but before that, make it clear what are women’s universal rights. In Article 25(1) of the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan it is stated, “All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.
” Article 25(2) states, “There shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex alone.”
Islam guarantees an adult woman to marry according to her will. Even parents cannot force her to marry against her choice. Moreover, no person including parents, husbands, in-laws have the right to judge and decide the fate of women accused of being guilty of any crime. Courts are there in a civilized society to decide what is right what is wrong.
In addition to constitutional guarantee, 98% percent Muslims of Pakistan are morally binding as believer of Islam to fight evil and injustice, i.
e., Amar Bil-Maroof Wanahi-o- Mankar. In this regard, they are binding upon at least to voice their concern as a Muslim who cannot tolerate evils of gross injustices going on women.
Despite the universal protection of Islam and the rights given by the constitution of Pakistan, women are the being abused by some atrocious elements of our society.
Politics in Pakistan is a game of holding power and doing everything whether right or wrong in order to secure that power. Women have been a victim of such a political game. General Zia-ul-Haq, after clinching power from Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, enacted “Hudood Ordinances”. Zia gave the impression to Islamize the country; however, the hidden truth was to prolong his tenure by making the religious extremist happy. Still the women are being crushed under the barbarity of Hudood Ordinances.
If a woman is raped, one of the conditions of the law requires that woman must provide for four pious Muslim witnesses for seeing the crime. Let for a moment condone that part of the law. But, the worst cruelty of the law is that in case of failing to provide witnesses, the rape victim will be charged of fornication; the punishment for which is stoning to death.
One of the examples from innumerous cases is that of an incidence of stoning to death to a blind girl in 1980s. Her only mistake was to report that she was raped. But, unable to provide for the four pious Muslim cum male witnesses, she was charged of adultery. Consequently, in this Islamic Republic of Pakistan, an innocent was stoned to death.
Does the above case conform to the right and protection given by the constitution of Pakistan? Does Islam allow injustice of such an inhuman nature? The answer is no, but, such atrocities are being done under the name of Islamic injunctions; however, the concealed fact is that of a political nature. The society was silent when the Hudood Ordinance was enacted, and it is still heedless of the barbarisms from some of its own sections of people.
Karo-Kari is one of those customs related to fornication. A Kari is a woman who is alleged to have extramarital relations with a man called Karo. In a typical Birdari and caste system of our society, especially in rural areas, if a woman marries with her choice outside of her family relation — a crime of violating the Biradari unwritten rule – then she is alleged to have committed adultery. The whole Biradari becomes willing to kill both of the husband and the wife under the pretext of Karo-Kari.
Even the dead body of the innocent woman is not given her due right of burying. She is interred in an isolated and far-flung place without religious rituals. In contrast, the Karo is given the right to be buried with religious rituals.
Moreover, husbands, in-laws, and their relatives also victimize the woman with allegation of fornication. In fact, the reason is their personal grievances and enmity for not bringing enough dowry or not following the orders of in-laws. She could be killed any time by her husband or any of his relatives under the pretext of Karo-Kari custom.
Not only the adult woman but also baby girls of even months old are not spared from the clutches of retrogressive customs. Swara and Vaani are such kind of heinous crimes that are deeply upheld by the stone-age minded people.
In both of the customs, the minor girls are given as compensation for the wrongdoings perpetrated by one of the members of the culprit family on the aggrieved one. The village’s cult of goons called “Punchayat” leaded by elders of village, fundamentalist Mullahs, including any of our graduate MPA participate in such Punchayats.
Many girls given under Vaani or Swara to the aggrieved family refused to marry there after attaining adult age. CJ of the Supreme Court of Pakistan have taken suo motu action in this regard. Furthermore, girls as young as ten years of age are married with 60 years old man under such customs.
The data collected by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reveals, “A woman is raped after every two hours and gang-raped after every eight hour. For honor killing, commission’s report says that in 2006, 565 women have been killed under Karo-Kari. Police do not take seriously the crime of honor killings; as in 2005, there were 475 such cases, and police was able to catch only 128 accused.
According to a report presented by the Interior Ministry, there have been 4100 honor killings since 2001. The report also criticizes that under ‘Qisas and Diyat” law, the killer could easily be forgiven after paying compensation for the blood of the dead.
The village Punchayat is so lowest in its scruples that sometimes it orders to rape the women of the culprit family as revenge. Mukhtaran Mai is one of such victim who had been gang-raped because her brother was guilty of some wrong for which she was punished to be gang-raped. The law enforcement agencies denied her “right to register an FIR” because the criminals were influentials.
Sometimes women are stripped and forced to walk naked in the village for any crime of their family members. If she denies marrying with a family relative or raising her voice against her in-laws then she is subjected to mutilation of her body by acid-throwing. For whatever reasons, her husbands could brutally beat her any time under any pretext. Most of the time, she was beaten and even killed for not having a male baby child.
Women are also exploited for the only reason of being a woman. With a high workload from dawn to dusk, she was paid far less than what males get doing less work. Moreover, in our male dominant society, molestation and sometimes attack on her piety during job are frequent incidents. If she reports such crimes then as a punishment, she is rusticated from her job. Therefore, most of the crimes against her remain unreported.
The traders of human flesh exploit her misery. Taking advantage of her penury, they force some of the women on prostitution. Trafficking of women is also a lucrative business for human traffickers. Such women after going abroad work as domestic slaves under extremely inhuman conditions or they are kept in brothels for the shameful business.
Report by an NGO, the Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA) says that in 2006, there were 7,564 cases of violence against women; 1,993 cases of torture; 1,271 women were kidnapped; 822 women committed suicide; 259 were gang raped; 119 were trafficked; 144 booked under the Hudood Ordinances; and 792 were killed in the name of honor. The above data are based on reported cases; and because of unreported abuses, the actual crime rate is far more than what is reported.
Furthermore, most of the women have no choice of theirs in deciding the number of babies to have. Family planning is seen in a typical conservative society as against Islam. In case of any medical emergency, when no female doctor available for her help, the orthodox relatives allow her to die rather than to be provided aid by a male doctor. Thousands of woman die per annum for not having female doctors in medical facilities.
Being a female, cult of the fundamentalists mostly in tribal and rural areas does not allow her to get education. They say it is a western intrigue to make their women liberal. With the advent of Talibanization, the girls’ schools are openly threatened to close their centers else, their educational premises would be blasted. Such news in North Western part of Pakistan has become common today and several girls schools have been devastated by such crimes.
With all such atrocities on majority of women, there is some ray of hope for having a section of women fully utilizing constitutional and religious rights. Such women are participating in the development and progress of Pakistan; while fully observing the Islamic behavior and conduct, they are working along with men in almost all the spheres of life. They are in military, economy, health, politics, police, foreign services, law, parliament and in fact every place where it was impossible to think of their presence few decades ago.
Recently, PAF (Pakistan Air Force) inducted in its services female pilots as commissioned officers. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, a female, Shamshad Akhtar, has been appointed as Governor State Bank of Pakistan. In foreign services, Tasneem Akhtar is carrying out her duties diligently as foreign office spokesperson. Besides, her Excellence, Dr. Maliha Lodhi, is working as an ambassador of Pakistan in UK.
Asma Jahangir, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commissions of Pakistan, is famous for her brave efforts for relieving the victims of Human Rights abuses in Pakistan At lower level, women are running their own business as entrepreneurs; working in petrol pumps, restaurants, and coaches; participating in politics. In fact, there is a long list of women who are active and no less than their male contemporaries are.
There are 234 women legislators sitting in our assemblies; 18 in Senate; 73 in National Assembly; and 143 in Provincial assemblies. This is one of the first times in Pakistan’s history that women are given greater role to play in legislation. Several women are working in cabinet as ministers in various government divisions. In Local Government system, thousands of women are elected as councilors, mayors, deputy mayors. Nasreen Jalil, is Deputy mayor of CDGK (City District Government Karachi).
Still, the number of women enjoying some of their rights is below optimum. For the majority, it is a distant dream to decide for their own choice of life partner; and it is a luxury for most of the women to avail medical facilities for delivering a baby. However, efforts are being made both from the government and non-government sides to make better the plight of the persecuted women.
After Independence, the first Commission on the Emancipation of Women was formed in 1955; the commission presented its report in 1961, but the government diluted several of its recommendations. However, in the same year, president Ayub Khan promulgated “Family Law Ordinance” that gave not much but little relief to the women.
In 1975, Pakistan Women Rights Committee was formed which presented its report in 1976 without having any effect upon the power holders. Similarly, in 1981, Pakistan Commission on the Status of Women was founded that submitted its findings in 1985. However, the report was thrown into the dustbin due to Zia’s passion for implementing his own version of Islamization.
After nine years, the “Commission of Inquiry for Women” was formed in 1994. The commission presented its report in August 1997, but it has gone to the same fate as the previous commissions’ reports.
The National Commission on Status of Women formed (NCSW) came into being in September 2000. The purpose was to advise the government for eradicating laws discriminatory to women. The commission provided its detailed report in 2003. The report presented a thorough and critical review of 1979 Hudood Ordinances and concluded that these laws are being used to abuse women; thus, it asked for their annulment.
The power of the NCSW is restricted to only for recommendations. Moreover, it has been devoid of chairperson for several months. The effectiveness of the commission cannot be enhanced unless it gets independent in its working. India has a commission of similar nature but it is quite powerful in questioning and calling any senior government official. Therefore, it should be made equal on such footing as that of Indian commission.
In 1996, Pakistan internationally ratified Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The law requires the government to take strict measures against any abuse that hinders women rights for freedom, equality, and justice. The law is good in its part for binding the country in protecting rights of the women.
November 2006 is important in relieving women some of the atrocities of Hudood Ordinances. Parliament passed “Protection of Women Rights Bill (Criminal Laws Amendments)”; the bill is an attempt to secure the women from misuse of Zina and Qazf laws under Hudood Ordiances enacted by Zia in 1979.
Religious fundamentalists as usual opposed the passage of the bill and leader of opposition Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman said that the bill is “to turn Pakistan into a free-sex zone”. They criticized the Bill to be against Qur’an and Sunnah.
So much noise by religious bigots over rights of women is a norm in our society. The only purpose of such billows is to gain political marks. In fact, the Bill do not require a woman to be punished – as the case under Hudood Ordiance 1979 – if she fails to provide for 4 pious males like our religious fundamentalists. Moreover, the bill requires the intervention of the session court in case the families pardon the culprits of rape or killing by settling the dispute outside the court under Qazf. Moreover, the bill made the offences under Hudood Ordinances to be taken under Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) that gives the right to have bail which 1979 Hudood Ordinance negated.
The government presented another bill on women rights “Prevention of anti-Women Practices Bill 2006 (Criminal Law Amendment) in December 2006. The bill contains the proposal of nine-member Ulema panel to relieve women from some of the malpractices. Under Section 310A, the bill prohibits handover of women for settling a dispute between groups, either under marriage or as Vaani, Swara. Any violation of the Bill carries three-year prison term and fine.
The second bill on women rights also protects the women from depriving of the inheritance in property, violation of which carries seven-year imprisonment under Section 498A; force marriage is regarded as punishable with three-year imprisonment and fine under Section 498B; Section 498C prohibits marriage with the Quran, those involving such practice are punishable with three-year imprisonment.
Women Action Forum was formed in Karachi in September 1981 in order to voice against brutalities of Hudood Ordinances. Behind its formation, there was a case in which a fifteen year old woman was sentenced to flogging because of marrying of her choice. Since then the forum took out many demonstrations and public awareness campaigns for eliminating the abuse of women rights in Pakistan. The forum has expanded its activities in major cities of Pakistan.
Aurat Foundation formed in 1986 is working enthusiastically for the rights of women. The head office is located in Islamabad. The organization has its own information and publication department that apprise the people the true realities women facing in Pakistan.
Given these facts, the Women in Pakistan do not possess their due rights guaranteed by the Constitution and Laws. The state is unable to protect the women from inhuman social customs prevalent in our society. The general population is mum over wicked practices being carried out on women; there is a great need of their voice against anti-women practices rather than forming laws over laws. The only need is to wake people of Pakistan for the Protection of Women Rights.
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