Wednesday, November 29

Empowerment, Women and why is this still a debate?

Sobia Batool, an 18 year old girl from Sargodha who was abducted on August’20 and in-spite of the arrest of 16 suspects is yet to recovered. The staggering numbers also surprised the three member bench at the Supreme Court, who deemed the abduction a failure of the police, forcing Justice Maqbool Baqir to label it as “a matter of great abuse” and despite FIRs, the recovery was so lax (as reported by dawn news). It’s May 8, 2022. 151 girls all hailing from Sargodha who had been missing over an unspecified amount of time have been traced by the police with roughly 20% of them being recovered from brothels or committing other heinous acts in which they are forced into. But most importantly women of Pakistan are deprived of their basic rights. This is the outcry of Pakistani women who are tired of vehemently protesting and fighting every time anything of this magnitude happens. There is however, another furore, the ones who show little to no assiduousness to the victims. Suggesting it was because they were out late or chose to wear a certain rather provocative attire and that not ‘all men’ are like that, invalidating the whole purpose of the protest. I wanna delve into why things are this way. Why don’t we tremble every time we hear names like Zainab, Sobia, Qandeel or Noor. But most importantly how have we become a part of this fiendish and sempiternal loop of transgression. Despite the popular belief that it’s only recently women have started coming out whether it’s in the form of social media campaigns or the Aurat March, women activism in the subcontinent actually predates Pakistan. In 1916 Rukeya Begum, reformist, educationist and socialist founded Anjuman-e-Khawateen-e-Islam (Islamic Women’s Association), which advocated for education, inheritance, protection from violence and political participation for women. In the late 1940s Begum Ra’ana Liaqat Ali Khan, founder of Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA), aimed at promoting the social and economic standing of women across the newly developed nation. Similarly, The Women’s Action Forum (WMA) formed during Zia’s regime, lobbied and advocated on behalf of the common mother, daughter and wife and made public statements on their issues. “The questioning of a woman (and what she should be doing) is coming from the head of the state. Since when did anyone get the authority to become the guardians of morality” – Member, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Even during the partition itself, women like Fatima Jinnah, Begum Shahnawaz, and Shahista Ikramullah were only a few of the prominent figures that worked concomitantly with the men of the Pakistani movement. This shows how regardless of the impediments that came in their way, women have always had a pivotal role as agents of political change. However we seldom see these names in our redacted history and it’s due to the intentional invisibilisation of the female role models from this specific historical context that the idea of a politically active woman is foreign to us, which explains the chauvinistic views of our society and why when women take to the streets and demand agency they face severe backlash. In a society, certain strict and corrective measures are enforced, which are known as sanctions. Simply put, punishments and rewards that allow the human brain to draw a dichotomy between what’s right and wrong, which would ultimately add to the regulation of social order. Having said that, an absence of sanctions causes a drastic change. Since now the criminal fails to recognize what crime they committed causes the society to collapse. Henceforth, In the cases of Gender-Based-Violence (GBV) and abductions, when courts tend to sympathise with the perpetrators or warrant reduced punishments on the basis of them being model citizens before, would only perpetuate the malfeasance since there would be little to no fear for accountability and punishment for it. This only applies for the cases that are presented in court, which unfortunately in Pakistan, is only when both the parties involved are rather ‘privileged’, leaving the majority of victims unrecognisable, for whom the police don’t even bother registering an FIR, let alone investigating the case. And in the rare occurrence of such cases coming out in the mainstream, would only result in the authorities dismissing them as elopements or some other ridiculous claim so that it dies off and coalesces into mere memories and tributes. Other than lack of punishment, normalisation of such violence and abuse is what fosters such acts. Moreover, The representation of women in Pakistani dramas has been too marginalised – One that has failed to evolve along the socio political dynamics of the nation. During the era of the popular socialist leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his slogan ‘Roti, Kapra aur Makaan’ that translated in the films where the male characters were shown as the bread runners of the family while their female counterparts as someone who were secondary to the male protagonists and would serve them with lewd dances and as objects of violence. Fast forward to today’s film industry, where rather than depicting a positive representation of women, they are shown as frail and helpless, threatened by domestic violence, divorce as well as being kicked out of the house. See, violence became a recurring trope in these dramas since they empowered the common man and put the woman ‘back in her place’. A research conducted on the Punjabi film industry from 1947 to 2010 revealed a total of 180 slaps with roughly half of them being gendered. The commonly known ‘Chuppair’ or slap was used to show belittlement towards the victim. These acts of violence would not only result in the woman losing her individuality but in the longer run, curate a certain perception for the masses, making them desensitised to abuse against women. Unfortunately, for too long has our social fabric been manicured by individuals incognizant of the plight of women, making social evils, such as objectification, the norm. This has fostered an environment insusceptible to change. However, the perseverance of women, manifested throughout the brief history of this country and beyond, continues to extend hope for a brighter, more equitable future

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