PAKISTAN: Mukhtaran Mai: Another Rosa Parks

Wednesday, June 1, 2011
The Nation
Southern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Although the apex court's decision acquitting five persons went against Mukhtaran Mai, yet she remains victorious. To many it would seem strange, but the way in which Mai raised her voice throughout the world to get justice has no parallel. In fact, she can be called the Rosa Parks of the 21st century. Her struggle is a beacon of hope for those who are suffering from discrimination. Mai has set new benchmarks for courageous women all over the world. She is a symbol of unfathomable nerves and steel, unbroken in the face of group torture and violence by the weak souled. Her epic struggle for women's rights in Pakistan deserves tribute.

The causes of women sufferings in Pakistan are multiple that is a male-dominated society where patriarchy is getting more and more repressive and cruel with each passing day. The purpose of this article is to remind the decision makers and stakeholders about the gravity of violence being committed against women. It should help them realise the urgency to undertake concerted efforts at all levels to combat and eliminate gender-based violence in Pakistan.

All such efforts must include strong and effective administrative, political and legislative actions, in addition to raising social awareness jointly with citizen groups and the media to create and ensure zero tolerance for violence against women in the society. Some of these efforts have recently resuited into the landmark legislation on prohibition and penalising sexual harassment of women at workplace. Then the Women Protection Bill is passed by the present government and women quota in jobs has been increased. Although these are praiseworthy accomplishments in empowering the women in Pakistan, yet there is a need to address the structural causes of gender-based violence, sexual, physical and psychological violence against women and girls that is not a natural condition, nor a simple outcome of difficult social circumstances. Rather gender-based violence is a consequence of the unequal power balance between men and women and a reflection of the dominant gender-norms prevalent in our society.

Unfortunately, women are subjected to inhuman treatment in Pakistan. Over the years, the level of cruelty against them has increased. Earlier, the women were first killed and then buried. However, now they are buried alive. In the past, they were kidnapped and shot to death. However, now they are not only abducted, but also thrown before the dogs prior to being killed. There are incidents where women are forced to walk naked before the jeering crowd. The one positive difference sustaining hope is the manifest addition to the cases being reported by women. A bold and vocal media has been the key to this development.