Changing attitudes towards women

Published: December 31, 2012
The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at

The gang rape of a 23-year-old medical student in Delhi and her subsequent death is a horrific reminder of how women are treated in this part of the world. Though the appalling incident happened in India, it made all the women in Pakistan empathise with their sisters in the neighbouring country because it could very easily be one of them. Things are just as bad, if not worse, for the women in our society. The societies that perpetuate the archaic notions of misogyny and make excuses for such acts by pointing towards a woman’s mobility or clothing are responsible for it.

That rape incident did not happen in isolation. The crimes against women are on the rise, especially in our part of the world — be it rape, domestic violence, mental, physical or sexual abuse, threats of such abuse, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty to move around, to choose a life partner or to seek education or health care. Women are generally viewed as secondary citizens, incapable of making decisions for themselves. Women who dare to exercise that right are judged and at times punished by society for doing so. A fundamental attitudinal change in the way women are viewed by society is required. They are not viewed as active, smart-thinking individuals but as vessels that carry future generations during the gestation period, objects of desire or derision and the carriers of honour of the male members of their families.

One thing that comes to the fore in the aftermath of the Delhi gang-rape case is the need to make ethics a part of school curricula everywhere and as part of a massive media campaign because we desperately need it. We teach useless skills in schools all over the world but what about the behavioural codes regarding women in public and private spaces? What constitutes acceptable behaviour and what is deemed inappropriate? Are they taught about the consequences of inappropriate behaviour or do they believe that they will be not be apprehended because society is permissive of their misdeeds and will let them go with the attitude that “boys will be boys?” Are they taught how to approach women, which should be a taught skill in societies as segregated as ours? Laws ensuring women’s rights and safety are necessary and should be strictly implemented but they can only work when society in general changes its attitude.

It is sickening to live in a world where a medical student is gang raped because she dared to step out in the evening and wanted to use public transport or a teenage girl, Malala Yousufzai, is shot in the head because she just wanted to go to school. They shouldn’t have to become either a victim or a hero; the Delhi girl should have remained a carefree medical student and Malala should have stayed the student whose biggest problem would have been acing her calculus exam. Instead, they have turned into symbols of courage and valour. Legislation needs to be amended to ensure the safety and participation of women in society. On personal level, the least we can do is raise the next generation of men to respect women and accord them the same dignity that they seek as human beings.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2013.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Xcaret
    Dec 31, 2012 - 11:00PM

    Well said, education is the only way.


  • kailash sethy
    Jan 1, 2013 - 5:07AM

    yeah societies have to rise up and stand for its equal rights by Women


  • Zalim singh
    Jan 1, 2013 - 6:36AM



  • bevivek
    Jan 1, 2013 - 10:22AM

    Good point on teaching ethics in schools.Apart from that for society at large, a sustained campaign consisting of short documentaries, spot messages, posters, street theatre should be used to bring about change. The police also need gender sensitizing courses as well as forensic training on dealing with evidence in rape victims. Most rape cases are dismissed in courts because of the poor forensics.


  • Mirza
    Jan 1, 2013 - 11:03AM

    I agree with the writer. The reason these crimes happen is that criminals know that it would not be reported. Even if it is reported they can force the witnesses not to testify and so on.
    Till our society improves let us do a few things.
    In every crime against women the culprits must be identified with their big clear pictures and put in a database as sex offenders. Once the charges are proved, they should be castrated and their property confiscated for the victim. The second time they should be put away for life in the lowest class with rigorous punishment.
    These laws would put the fear of God in them. These same people do not commit such crimes with this frequency in middle east, why?


  • Diddly poo
    Jan 1, 2013 - 11:25AM

    Unfortunately this is going to be a long road but hopefully one people don’t stop on along the way. The Indian/Pakistani culture has spanned thousands of years and the addition of a recent rising religious fervor in Pakistan has made the roads even bumpier and slower. Education for both men and women is the first seed in creating change. And by education I don’t simply mean a textbook education in order to obtain a degree; an actual education providing a worldly view of things and establishing women’s status on par with men. Sometimes reading stories like this makes me feel even more hopeless, but the wave of protests and outcry for justice after makes me feel a few degrees better. Keep fighting for change, men and women alike. We must learn to coexist if there’s to be actual progress.


  • Turbo Lover
    Jan 1, 2013 - 4:18PM

    Can we also teach women that not all men are the same, they are actually good people out there and that husbands are not ATM machines.


  • Cynical
    Jan 2, 2013 - 3:28AM

    @Turbo Lover

    I agree all men are not same, but then all women are not same as well. Then why you want all of them (you said ‘women’ not some of them) to know that husbands are not ATM machines? When some men stop seeing women as ‘sex machines’, women will also stop looking at men as ATM machines.


  • Turbo Lover
    Jan 2, 2013 - 1:49PM

    @Cynical: My thoughts exactly, I believe both ends should be educated and both sides of the story should be heard.Recommend

  • Jan 3, 2013 - 11:20AM

    it is our mindset that we blame woman

    we question her character
    and things like “why did she go to that place so late?”

    imposing ban over their clothing, their timings
    instead of teaching and punishing those men to not to do such horrible acts
    if she went late night out so does that justify the man’s actions who raped her?


  • Jan 10, 2013 - 7:30PM



  • Jan 10, 2013 - 7:31PM



  • Jan 10, 2013 - 7:39PM

    verey nice


  • sara
    Jan 11, 2013 - 3:35PM

    I think half the problem can be solved if women are told to fight back and not stand harassment. Once my Aunty told me that she used public transport when she went to university. The men were extremely rude and tried to poke women all the time from inbetween the railing at partition. Most of the women used to get up and standd up in an already crowded bus and not sit at that place. But one day this girl got poked ant brought out a compass used to draw circle from her bag and stabbed it in however tried to touch her. And then they stopped poking.

    Women should hit however pinches them or sings dirty songs at them especially if they are in a public setting. There is no honour or ghairat in enduring humiliation.


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