The horrific plight of a 22-year-old woman in Chiniot recently came to the fore. She was declared vani (custom in which girls are forcibly married as part of punishment for a crime committed by her male relatives), kidnapped and then married ‘forcibly’. But it did not end there. She was divorced, kidnapped once again, gang-raped and tied to a tree on the street and then stripped naked. Too much to digest? But unfortunately, this ill-fated woman has gone through it all in one day. Women, who make up 51 per cent of the population, are prone to such ghastly horrors in Pakistan. What are we celebrating today and why?
What was her fault? She has been destroyed. It feels good to say that this is the 21st century but, sadly, the woman has always been harassed in one way or the other, no matter which era she belongs to. All religions are against torturing women and yet, it keeps happening with a nefarious continuity.
In December 2012, a 23-year-old girl was gang raped in a bus in New Delhi. She died a few days later from her injuries. The case got media coverage from everywhere and protests were held both in India and abroad. This led to the quick arrests of the rapists, punishment, whereas one of them committed suicide. We should learn from India.
The year 2013 was a bad one for women in Pakistan. Around 370 women were raped while there were 185 incidents of gang-rape and 217 women were killed after being gang-raped. These are only the reported cases, and may only be the tip of the iceberg, as a large number of cases go unreported because many families wish to keep the identity of the females hidden from the public after such misfortunes.
These statistics beg the question: is Pakistan generally a safe place for women? Harassment on the streets is something that probably no Pakistani woman is unfamiliar of. And now, rising rape cases are presenting a whole new, frightening picture. Is this, by any chance, a way to stop women from stepping out?
The society does not take cases of rape seriously. It hurts even more when you come across a group of people who say “it is the girl’s fault. She must have attracted the rapists with the way she was dressed or the area in which she was travelling.” Needless to say, it is time to think and act.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2014.