Food For Thought

Aug 12, 2014 by     No Comments    Posted under: Expressions, Opinions

Even though we are currently living in the 21st century, Pakistan as a society has much left to achieve. Minorities (the definition of which has been broadened by the Pakistani Constitution to include women) are considered inferior, with little or no basic rights.

It is perhaps the biggest tragedy of our society that women are by and large considered second-class citizens; with their wants, objections and complaints sidelined and often brushed aside. Most women are unaware that they even have rights.

We live in a culture where speaking about issues such as sex and rape is prohibited. Rape or any sort of violence (sexual or otherwise) is considered a stigma on the “family honor”, which forces most women to keep their lips sealed.

The Constitution of Pakistan only addresses the issue of women’s rights in a broader perspective. For example at present, rape is filed under Zina – which is Urdu for sexual intercourse. There is no specific definition regarding forced sex; and coupled with our extremely male chauvinist judicial system, this loophole allows many a perpetrator to escape unscathed. This also creates an easy route to punish the victim for being so bold as to come out and speak up.

There have been reported instances of judges making merry at the cost of the victim who so bravely decided to fight for her rights in court; with one high court judge (who shall remain anonymous for legal reasons) even going so far as to declare that the “victim’s account resembled a 007 Bond movie.”

In 2006, the Women’s Protection Bill moved the prosecution of rape cases from the Hudood Ordinance to Pakistan’s Secular Penal Code. While this enabled judges to try rape cases in criminal instead of Islamic court and also forgo the requirement of witnesses to establish a rape, marital rape is still not prosecuted as rape.

It is impediment that the Constitution be updated to specifically address key issues, such as Honor Killings, Rape, etc. Women in Pakistan are largely exploited and their rights commonly denied.

Pakistan today has countless untold stories of women being harassed and sexually abused, and the perpetrators not being punished for their heinous crimes.

Unlike many other forms of women exploitation and harassment, marital rape remains an unacknowledged crime – both on a social and judicial level. Women, due to a lack of awareness, are often confused and unwilling to admit that they have been raped by their partners. It is very common for women to accept their spouse’s treatment of them and their bodies, considering it to be ‘marital duty’.

It is also partly due to the cultural belief that is rooted in women’s minds that submitting to their husband is a sign of a dutiful wife, and partly to the belief that saying ‘no’ to the mijazi khuda will have serious repercussions.

The deep-set patriarchal culture of our society enforces the belief that women are the “husband’s property”. If a woman dares to ask for help – from law enforcement agencies – against her husband, she is usually either threatened or laughed out. Most police stations do not even file FIRs for rape; considering it to be on little or no significance. This is the reason more NGOs have become active in recent years, trying to help women secure their rights.

Families also play a large role in stifling women’s freedom and sense of equality. Instead of supporting the woman, most families prefer to put a muzzle on the rape victim or survivor; thinking selfishly to protect their own so-called honor.

Domestic violence and marital rape are a very common occurrence in Pakistan. According to human rights activist, Asma Jehangir, about 72 percent of women in Pakistan are physically or sexually abused. The NGO War Against Rape yearly documents the magnitude of the problem in the country and the judicial indifference to it.

According to a study by the Human Rights Watch, there is a rape once every two hours and a gang rape once every eight.

Such horrific social conduct is reinforced by the media, which focuses more on the victim rather than the perpetrator, beating about the bush regarding how her “honor” has been compromised instead of trying to help authorities pin the rapist.

Unfortunately our society is yet to realize that every woman has the right to take a decision about her body, to choose if she wants to exercise birth control, get pregnant and when ( or not) to have sexual intercourse.

Many use Islam as the basis to justify forced sex with their wives, shamelessly arguing that the Prophet PBUH has said it is a wife’s duty to answer to the husband’s needs. However, while they are busy exploiting the name of religion for base gains, they forget that Islam teaches that the institution of marriage means love and mutual respect. Ibn Abbas narrated the Prophet Muhammad PBUH as saying that “the best among you is the best towards his wife”, meaning that the best of husbands, according to Prophet Muhammad PBUH is the man who treats his wife with respect – and keeps her happy. (source:Ibn Majah, authenticated by Al-Albani)

Islam teaches men to treat their wives with love and kindness, to honor their dignity and safeguard their respect – these teachings are of course all contrary to marital rape which is a solid setback to the real spirit of marriage.

Marital rape results in a loss of trust between partners, with the husband losing what respect and dignity he has before his wife – and subsequently any children who might be involuntary witnesses to the violence. It also creates rifts in the family, with the children growing up to be traumatized and scarred.

While it is important that immediate revamping be done with regards to the legal rights ‘enjoyed’ by women in Pakistan, we must strive as a society to uphold basic humanity and respect for one another. Men in Pakistan need to be taught to respect their other halves, and consider them human beings with dreams and rights rather than their property. If we, as a society, can teach our sons to respect the girls/women they come in contact with everyday, more than half our problems would be solved.

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