How Pakistan can be safe for women

Lax implementation of laws combine with patriarchal mindsets

Can Pakistan ever be a safe space for women? Unfortunately, young girls and women encounter harassment and abuse at a very early age. Being a woman in Pakistan means constantly encountering this question and its underlying meaning. The past few months have been a rollercoaster ride for the people of Pakistan, who have seen political unrest, economic distress, natural catastrophes, terrorist attacks, and an increase in incidences of violence against women. Since the founding of this country, women in Pakistan have encountered a series of social, legal, cultural, and economic hardships.

The most significant problems that are regarded as key hurdles to women’s empowerment include gender-based violence, workplace harassment, denying women their fundamental rights as granted in the Constitution of Pakistan, low pay, and many others. According to the Global Gender Gap Index Report 2022, despite Pakistan’s repeated claims to be an Islamic republic that promotes women’s rights and gender equality, it ranks 145 out of 156 nations in terms of economic opportunity and participation.

Every so often, a new incident of violence against women disturbs the peace of the country. The brutal murder of Noor Muqaddam, the incident of violence and the murder of Sara Inam, the Motorway gangrape case, and the list continues. With an estimated 5000 documented deaths caused by domestic abuse each year nationwide, violence has reached the point of murder.

The US State Department has recently released its annual 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, raising concern over the significant human rights problems in Pakistan with a special focus on cases of discrimination against women and children. As of a report issued in 2022 under UN Women’s coordination, 5008 complaints were filed with the Federal Ombudsperson Secretariat for Protection Against Harassment (FOSPAH) during the course of the last four years, which is a remarkable increase.

The number of rape incidents in Islamabad, the country’s capital, has increased alarmingly over the past few months, making it no more a safe city for women. Even more concerning is the fact that several rape incidents took place in well-known crowded, protected public spaces. Such events raise serious questions about the institutions in charge of maintaining peace and order in the city and the country. According to data acquired by the SAMAA TV Investigation Unit (SIU) from the Punjab Home Department and the Ministry of Human Rights, over 21,900 women were allegedly raped in Pakistan between 2017 and 2021. There is a lack of investigation into such cases, which however, seems to be impossible in the prevailing investigation and justice systems of the country.

If the institutions set up to maintain security aren’t doing their jobs, how can women be protected? The most frequent response when numerous people were questioned was that laws needed to be better applied. Although there are laws and regulations at both the national and subnational levels to protect women, they are rarely followed. Governmental authorities are unable to take swift action to enforce any rights abuses against women. Due to the perception that these are “family matters,” the police force fails to report numerous cases of domestic abuse. It’s critical to successfully carry out legislation intended to protect and support women. Laws and rules should be strictly followed and tough actions should be taken against offenders in order to deter future crimes. The law must be properly followed, and punishment must be meted out right away.

Another factor that needs to be considered is the mindset of the populace. Patriarchal values are embedded in Pakistani society, where men are seen as superior and the decision-makers. In order to avoid embarrassing their families, women are trained to be patient, be people-pleasers, and keep their problems to themselves. Men should be held responsible for their actions too. Stereotypes like “men will be men” should not be used to excuse the awful acts of violence committed by males.

Preserving the safety of women in Pakistan is a continual effort that necessitates an all-encompassing plan. By strengthening law enforcement, boosting social standards, creating safe spaces, and empowering women, we can all do our part to make our society safer and more equitable.

In our society, blaming the victim is one of the first things we do. Some people worry because a lady was alone in a public place when she is gang-raped at a family park instead of showing sympathy and confronting the perpetrators. The victim is being questioned instead of justice being served. A woman who has experienced sexual assault is stigmatized in our culture as being broken. Women are hesitant to speak out against the abuse they have witnessed as a result. Situations of domestic violence are usually not reported to authorities or brought before a judge. Many women experience domestic violence for the length of their lives out of fear that discussing their problems will only make things worse. In some cases, they might be correct. Women need to be empowered to seek justice for the wrongs done to them rather than being denigrated and blamed if our society is to provide them with a safe environment.

Sadly, by encouraging stereotypes and patriarchal beliefs, women too contribute to the subjugation of women in our society. After years of exposure, some women start to accept patriarchal ideals; they begin to judge other women and exalt men. Even working professionals, elected officials, and common women on the street will assault a woman based solely on how she is dressed, not only ignorant women from underdeveloped areas. Because they have never interacted with them, many men who were raised in strict, traditional families see women as aliens. Men should be given the proper direction and teaching regarding how to behave around women. Parents must teach their children respect for all women, whether they are related or not.

There must be more women in law enforcement if sexism in our society is to be eradicated and Pakistan is to become a safe place for women. Women may confide in another woman if they feel uncomfortable discussing their problems with a man. To avoid being seen as helpless objects, women must engage in practical domains. The more women there are, the more empowered they become, and the less victimization there is.

In conclusion, preserving the safety of women in Pakistan is a continual effort that necessitates an all-encompassing plan. By strengthening law enforcement, boosting social standards, creating safe spaces, and empowering women, we can all do our part to make our society safer and more equitable.

Mubashra Fazal
Mubashra Fazal
The writer is a freelance columnist

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