Isolated indignation

Published: March 27, 2012

The writer has worked at The Express Tribune and is proceeding to The New School in New York on a Fullbright scholarship

If there isn’t already a name for our reaction to Fakhra Younus’s death, I would like to propose one: isolated indignation. In my dictionary, isolated indignation is the temporary but potent rage one feels following a quick perusal of social media feeds or the local news. Isolated indignation leads to much re-tweeting and reposting, a little reporting, and a negligible-but-nonetheless commendable amount of revolting.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of anyone who indulges in isolated indignation — a brief spate of online activism has its merits and every word spoken out against an injustice has its place in a greater discourse. But because isolated indignation is a fleeting sentiment, fueled both by our need for instant gratification and our unwillingness to get our hands dirty, it is a mostly ineffective tool for lasting social change.

Lasting social change is what I assume we are after when we agitate — and this would require that our effort to change attitudes is a sustained one with clear objectives. Unfortunately, we face a dual problem: not only do we rally for change with imprecision, but we also misjudge the task’s enormity. And so, during the few days that we rage against the injustices done to Fakhra, we call for the creation of a system where retributive justice is dispensed swiftly, impartially and always. If this were the kind of system that existed back in 2000 when Fakhra was allegedly doused in acid by a vindictive husband, her tormentor would have been incarcerated irrespective of being a Khar and the world would be a better place, right?

Not quite. When we talk about Fakhra Younus, we must understand that her story did not begin with an act of violence and it will not end with her suicide. The number of wrongs that contributed to her tragedy are far more numerous. It was wrong that marriage seemed to be the only way for her to secure a future and respect for herself. It was wrong that her husband abused her and it was wrong that this abuse did not end when she left him. It was wrong that Khar was able to escape without any consequences for his actions and has not yet faced the Court.

Correcting one of these wrongs will only cause a small hiccup in a system intent on devaluing women. So, while criminalising acid attacks is a step forward, individual actions that we too often dismiss as harmless parts of our cultural fabric — like voicing disapproval of women working or discouraging a female child from pursuing education — will accumulate and counter that success.

A few days after the fact, Fakhra’s tragedy is already fading from the headlines. If we’ve exhausted our weekly quota for indignation on Fakhra’s behalf, there are several new stories we could focus on. Just yesterday, a woman in Multan was burnt by acid in a domestic dispute. This is where we must push for new legislation on acid attacks to be implemented. Barring that, if we cannot get more bodies in the street agitating for justice today, then, at the very least, we must begin propagating and living out certain ideals in our own lives, like believing and investing in women’s economic and intellectual potential and perhaps, most importantly, standing behind these rousing issues for the long haul.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2012.

 

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Abbas from the US
    Mar 27, 2012 - 9:49PM

    Nothing ever changes or will change when it comes to the male expression of ownership of women in Pakistan.
    As for the feudal lords I wonder if the newly liberated Supreme Court would take up cases like these Suo Moto. Probably not the feudal lords are not in contradiction with their lordships.

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  • Parvez
    Mar 27, 2012 - 10:43PM

    This is a crime allegedly committed by one of the 2% against one of the 98%. Those who sit in the assemblies and in positions of power makeup the heart of the 2%, they will drag their feet and at best make the right noises.
    It is civil society backed by the powerful media that is creating an awareness and I don’t thing this issue has been forgotten so quickly.

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  • Mar 27, 2012 - 11:42PM

    The only way to put an end to this violence against women is to ensure that the guilty are punished without any delay.

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  • Confused
    Mar 28, 2012 - 12:39AM

    Empathy: we lack it.

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  • asghar zaheer
    Mar 28, 2012 - 6:08AM

    Legislations or punitive measures cannot eradicate social evils and inhuman practices
    which are deeply embedded in our traditions over ceturies . We need reformatory movements
    by the civil society to produce tangible and longlasting results .
    In this context , it is pertinent to point out a glaring decifiency of our political parties . None of them ever had social reformation as part of their agenda , not even the All India Muslim League of the pre-indepndece era . A contrast with the Indian National Congress will drive home the point . The Congress had a host of reformatory movements to change
    the mindset of masses at the grassroot level and to liberate them from time-honoured
    practices incompatible with contemporary values and notions of human rights .

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  • Shakky
    Mar 28, 2012 - 7:15AM

    The Khar family is disgusting in its silence and its apathy. Absolutely disgusting!

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  • Abdul Majid
    Mar 29, 2012 - 7:43PM

    Women have been Tormented and treated as slaves throughout human history.That’s why Voltaire said that history is just like highway robberies.They have worked harder than men to keep the march of progress and civilization.The rich and the influential have always managed to escape the laws.The laws have also been discriminatory and power based. Still I believe that there has been improvement in global conditions and we can hope that a lot of racism’tyranny and hatred will give way to sanity.Otherwise all of us will vanish from this planet and I hope with George Carlin that we disappear completely not leaving the trace of this absurd race.

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  • Mar 30, 2012 - 12:20AM

    @Abbas from the US:

    “As for the feudal lords I wonder if the newly liberated Supreme Court would take up cases like these Suo Moto”

    Is it not expecting, too much from The Supreme Court, to act any differently than its has been doing till now? The body is composed of the same elite, which has lost its relevancy to the society long ago? CJ should have taken action against his own self and resigned and let a genuinely neutral body scrutinize charges leveled against him. That would have taken place in an ideal society.

    Whatever the outcome, only then confidence would be restored in the institution he leads. Recommend

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