There is nothing more shameful about society than the brutally brazen manner in which some citizens inflict violence upon others in the name of religion and culture, except perhaps the silence that these acts are normally greeted with by the nation at large when they come to light. One cannot even begin to imagine the pain and horror suffered by the three sisters in Kalat who were the subject of an acid attack on Thursday.
And no sane person could possibly fathom any crime that they may have committed to have deserved that kind of treatment. Yet apparently their attackers – who appear to have been from a group calling themselves the Baloch Ghairatmand Group (the Honourable Baloch Group) – feel that a woman’s mere presence in a market-place is an affront to their honour.
They must have an incredibly small amount of honour to be so sensitive about it. Perhaps we are mistaken, but we were under the impression that a person’s honour is determined by the morality of their actions. The truth is that those calling themselves the Baloch Ghairatmand Group are amongst the most beghairat (dishonourable) of all. Infinitely more honourable are those brave citizens of Kalat who, according to a report by the BBC, protested the attack and spoke out against the barbarity of the attackers.
Out of the tragedy that befell these defenceless women, there is at least the comfort that their fellow citizens spoke out on their behalf and against their attackers. The unspeakable horror that is the acid attack will only be eradicated from our society if more people are like the activists of Kalat: willing to speak out and declare such injustices unacceptable and their perpetrators to be cast out of society.
It is also encouraging to note that the President has taken a personal interest in the case, though of course, it would be much better if local law enforcement was given enough resources to deter the incidence of such attacks in the first place. Given the appalling state of readiness of law enforcement agencies in Balochistan, one can only hope that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.
But the incident also raises a larger question about society. Why is it acceptable for men to consider women part of their “honour”? Why is acceptable for the men of a household to control the behaviour of women? And why is it that even the most immoral of acts can be carried out with near-impunity so long as one uses the key words of “honour”, and “culture” to justify them? The blindness to reason and the refusal to define morality beyond an unthinking commitment to a warped understanding of tradition must end if we are to take the step towards becoming a civilised society.
At the very least, would it be too much to expect a ban on the purchase of acid by anyone unless they have good reason to do so — for example, note from a chemist’s shop, or a laboratory or for a clearly defined industrial use?