Recently, a news report in this paper revealed that a middle-aged woman in Haripur was dragged from her house, assaulted, stripped naked and paraded through the streets of her village, with the blessing of a local jirga, after her son was accused of raping a woman. The woman claims she is traumatised not just by the event but also by the apathy of her community, from which no one came to help. While the apathy is shocking, on reflection it’s also understandable given the prevalence of violence against women in the country, and the fact that while for most women in the village, the act was probably justified, expected even, others feared being meted the same treatment.
This is also because the concept of a woman as a symbol of society’s honour, has made her even more vulnerable, with women being raped or paraded naked if someone influential is angry at their father, brother or son. Meanwhile, after such crimes are committed, more often than not, recourse through the law is not an option. Even if a woman gets her voice heard, justice may not be served. Take for example the Mukhtaran Mai case, where five of the six accused of gang-raping her were acquitted. Years on and justice has still not been served; she continues to file appeals. Such is the tenacity of the prejudice against women, such is their weakness, that one wonders if justice can ever be done. The mother, humiliated because of something her son allegedly did, can no longer even live in the same community. If she moves, her humiliation will travel with her. It is ironic that precisely that which can be argued to promote out culture, the position that women are accorded in our society as mothers etc, is now being used as a weapon against women. Such is the situation that it’s not just about giving women separate police stations to report such crimes in, it’s about dismantling the entire jirga culture, along with the notion of society’s honour being linked to their women. It’s about educating the new generation with a fresh perspective, so that no notion of taking revenge by punishing innocent women remains.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2011.