Karak District: So, can women shop here or not?
When we talk about women empowerment, our society, not unlike others, is divided between two extremes — those who go to extreme lengths to establish female independence even at the cost of others and those who enforce patriarchal authority.
Then there are the women this society is fighting for. Ironically enough, these women are not asked by either side about what they want.
Recently, during Friday sermons in Karak, four clerics took a decision to restrict women from entering bazaars without a male family member accompanying them. The decision sparked debates over news, social media and even managed to enter our homes. We were told just how lucky we were to live in a city where women were not restricted to their houses.
The story further stated that the Karak District Police Officer refused to impose such orders and that women in Karak were free to go to bazaars on their own.
I do not approve of what the clerics spoke of that day, but the issue, as I was told, was not based on ‘spreading vulgarity in the holy month of Ramazan’. As rumour has it, due to the increase in robberies at these bazaars by people disguised in burkhas, the clerics stated that the men should keep an eye on where their women were going, so as to decrease the probability of these crimes occurring again.
The newspapers, however, got creative in reporting the incident and framed it to their liking. One even went as far as to say that the DPO banned women after the demand made by the clerics, while others hinted at militant presence in the area.
After the news, women in Karak are now actually afraid of stepping out alone. They feel that if they do, they will be punished. A place once safe is now feared to be infested with extremists. Bazaars are low in business in the festive season and shopkeepers are confused as to what all the fuss is about.
When we sit on the sidelines and comment on a city we haven’t been to, on traditions we have not heard of before and mindsets we cannot imagine, our statements become redundant. What was not a big deal in the district itself, made the headlines in newspapers across the country. The locals were appalled and continued to defend their area but we went on painting a sour picture of the region.
No one, however, bothered to see the other side of the story.
It’s about time we learned that two extremes do not make a positive.