Equality of all human beings before law, within constitutions, for accessing health and education, for having choices in their personal matters like marriage, birth spacing, sense of dressing, choice of careers etc., for being able to sustain themselves and in remaining safe from being trafficked, smuggled and becoming another statistics in a terrorist attack appear too unadorned, bald-faced and non-controversial. However, the fuss, fret and frown set off, if one just swap the word human beings by women. In an instant the kinetic energy of the centuries old patriarchy, in most of the globe starts showing its impressions. Understanding the scope, scale and spectrum of gender based violence and talking about it is an urgent and inevitable need of our times that aims for a planet 50/50 by 2030 though the Sustainable Development Goals.
The trials and tribulations for most of the women, irrespective of their social class, nationality and vulnerability remain endless.
According to the World Health Organisation, about 1 in 3 (35 percent) women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their life time with enormous social and economic costs.
Women cope with numerous forms of biases and brutality resulting from dogmatist interpretations of religion, radical academia, bigot bureaucracies, partisan police, constrained prosecution and hypocritical societies. The competent and competitive women play against pay gaps and glass ceilings in the corporate sector and brass ceiling in security sector. When women are raped, harassed and assaulted in the bedroom, boardroom or in the battlefields, they have to bear the burden of proof and contributory negligence. They are too often considered ineffectual enough to bear the responsibilities of family property and business and either denied the due share or under benevolent sexism is persuaded to relinquish the power of attorney to the male in the family.
According to the World Health Organisation, about 1 in 3 (35 percent) women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their life time with enormous social and economic costs
Involving men in devising realistic strategies to institutionalise practical mechanisms to combat it, is inescapable in Pakistan that has been again ranked as the second worst country on gender equality in the Global Gender Gap index of 2017.
In Pakistan, women in different geographical belts, tribes, clans and families face specific forms of violence due to the certain forms of cultural practices like child marriages, watta satta (exchange marriages), paitlikhi (when a marriage is decided even before the child is born), dowry-violence, Vulvar (Bride-Price), sawara/vanni/ badl-sulah (when a girl/woman is used as an exchange good for the dispute settlement) etc. The parallel justice system (Panchayat, Jirga), still very successful and patronised by a sizeable power elites, not only permits these perilous cultural practices but has the impudence of conferring orders for ‘honour’ killings, forced marriages, rapes and gang rapes. The girl child is usually not celebrated when born and given the status of a burden and even her mother is tortured, thrown out of home, divorced for giving birth to her, but the same poor creature is readily send to cities in pre teens to work as a slave in rich households and support the family, residing in the small towns, urban slums and far flung villages.
A woman remains a good woman in the conventional sense only if she chooses silence while dealing with all forms of abuses she is met with, whether it is a childhood sexual exploitation and/or sexual harassment at the workplace. The moment she tries to escape a violation of her basic human /religious/ constitutional and or legal rights, she suddenly becomes a pariah. If a woman, that too a mother steps out of an abusive marriage, not only her family contempt the determination but legal procedures make every attempt to effectively make her doubt her decision and loathe her courage.
If she survives this test of nerves and gets a divorce she has to live with a stigmatised status. If she is an earning hand and is also a tax payer she finds out that if women is widow she can get a tax exemption on her property but not with a divorced status. If she is a widow she receives uncalled-for sympathy and scrutiny. Many a times she is forced to get married to a mismatch that could be even her younger or much older brother-in-law.
The states and societies struggle to prove to clasp the Egalitarian principles of the fairness and equality of all citizens with cognitive biases that may or may not be perceptible.
Discriminatory knowledge, attitudes, behaviours and practices are endemic. How does a state respond to prevent and purge gender inequity; craft a concrete change? This response is echoed through laws, rule of law, commitment of the legislators with human and women rights, gender sensitive police actions, gender responsive judiciary and public policies.
Empowerment of women does not happen with a few privileged women making headlines or some transforming into influential. It happens when ordinary women feel empowered enough to take their own decisions and do what they please.
Perveen, Rakhshanda. Violence against women. Daily Times, November 6, 2017.