No Country for Women | Pakistan Today

No Country for Women

  • Will a public hanging help?

A trifecta of tragedy colours the country. Within a week, the people have seen the kidnapping-and-rape of a five-year-old girl who was out getting biscuits, the gunning down of a transgender activist, and the rape of a mother travelling with her kids. Is the public outcry truly unexpected? There is a disconnect; a rejection of a reality where this news is common and quite potentially hopeless.

In a way, the rage seems to speak well of our humanity and empathy. It’s a visceral, subconscious understanding of the fact that justice does not come easily in this land.

The man in charge of finding the culprits in the Motorway incident wondered how a woman could travel without checking her fuel. It seems eerily similar to Dua Mangi, where people came to the defence of her abductors simply because the woman had an off-the-shoulder profile picture. The ‘immodesty’ turned victim to villain.

The gyre turns, and the people react. Instagram polls on hanging or castration, or tweets demanding stoning the sinners; whatever it is, make it public so the impressionable minds learn the lesson. While we’re at it, let’s take this hurt, stunned society and ask them for a referendum about what justice is. Make the criminals afraid– or, perhaps, make them violent. They’ll burn a body so there is no evidence to trace.

Why do we want public hangings? Because it’s primally cathartic. Because when we see a person made powerless, broken by cold strangers, a person who can’t be saved, we want something that feels like retribution. With boiling blood, we want our hurt to be made physical and hurled back at the people who caused it. And really, it feels like we don’t trust the legal system to do it for us. We want to witness justice.

It makes sense, it’s a position that is uncomfortably easy to empathize with – but does it help?

As the discourse wanes on, death feels more like a memory than a demand. You could rid the world of a few types of scum, and there’s no loss in that, but it doesn’t prevent more of the same. Hanging a rapist might be a form of justice in the court of public opinion, but it’s not a justice system.

There needs to be a punishment, and it needs to come from above. Justice isn’t death, justice is knowing you’re in a land which actually values you and your life. Justice is the ability to say “I am a human being; I have a right to be here” regardless of gender. And until the average household stops the dialogue of victim-blaming, of vilifying the female, it does feel like there is no country for women

That’s the ugly underbelly to this whole mess, isn’t it? Behind the bellowing calls for revenge, under the howls of blood money, there is a voice. It asks, “Can I go out alone?” It asks, “Can I walk outside at night?” It asks, “Can I get in this car? Can I wear this? Can I post this? Can I say this?” and there’s no one answering those questions.

What happened, what continues to happen, is an act of hate; A hate that was nurtured in a society which seems to remain undecided about what it wants to do with its womenfolk. When the CCPO asked why a woman would travel at night, he’s two people. He is a member of the law, meant to protect, meant to enforce justice; and he is a man who can immediately come up with a reason why the woman was at fault in a crime.

Beyond that, how truly trustworthy does this police force seem in this moment? Tooting horns about how many suspects you have isn’t an accomplishment, it’s a statement of the fact that you found, in a small village near the scene of the crime, dozens of people who had the potential to do this. Perhaps they’ll catch the perpetrator, and in the moment, the public will see a handful of these criminals lynched. Yet, this savagery runs deeper in the soil of the country; it’s systemic. And the question still stands, where is justice?

There are factions of society who feel it makes more sense to impose a curfew on women and children, rather than make the streets safe. So of course, the public asks for public hangings! It’s asking to see something that proves the powerless have a safeguard. It’s asking to see fear in the very monsters that threaten to strike out and get away with it. It’s asking to see this because even, in the pain, it doesn’t ask for a justice system that makes them feel safe. It’ll just take the next best thing, regardless of how barbarian it might seem.

They might be able to convict a few poor brutes; they might discourage some of them. It doesn’t save women from the men in their offices who use their power to exploit, it doesn’t save them from abusers in the home who know no one will believe the crying damsel. It doesn’t feel like having an officer on your street makes you safe. And if you could hang all of them, would you turn to each other, rope burns on your palms, and say things are finally good?

There needs to be a punishment, and it needs to come from above. Justice isn’t death, justice is knowing you’re in a land which actually values you and your life. Justice is the ability to say “I am a human being; I have a right to be here” regardless of gender. And until the average household stops the dialogue of victim-blaming, of vilifying the female, it does feel like there is no country for women.



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