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Why is it so easy to victimise women?

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Shagufta Gul
“I don’t know whom I should blame. I was just five-years old when I was abused by a neighbour and was asked not to share that with anyone. It kept on happening. I don’t know why my mother couldn’t notice my late arrivals and my scared face. It’s a nightmare and I still come across such situations while earning my bread working as a maid. I know I am poor and nobody can take care of me.” This account was narrated to me by a woman sitting next to me at a government hospital where I had gone to visit a relative. Child abuse and violence against women is not uncommon in most countries. Every now and then, we come across the news of little girls being abused and women falling victims to sexual violence of all sorts. The latest incident I have across was on June 9, 2017, when a 16-year-old girl was allegedly kidnapped drugged and gang raped by at least five men in Khamber village near Ghotki in Sindh.Pakistan has been ranked second last in the gender gap index of 2016 ie we stand at 143 among 145 countries. India ranks 72 and Bangladesh 87.As per the Human Rights Commission report compiled in 2016, no significant decline was visible in violence against women despite several legislative measures at provincial and federal level. The HRCP media monitoring showed that there were more than 2,500 victims of violence in that year and the nature of violence was sexual and domestic including burning incidents as well as honour killings. Alongside, there must still be a large number of unreported cases.Why is it so easy to victimise women and why do they fall pray so easily to all sorts of violence and crimes even though a lot is being said and done for the protection of women and women empowerment. If we look at the demographic profile of Pakistan in 2016, 38.8 percent of the total population is settled in urban areas and the rest in rural and semi-rural areas. Male domination remains a reality in our society and it is backed by a selective interpretation of religion. Unfortunately, selective interpretation of religious texts is promoted among masses and incomplete and unauthentic information transferred to generation after generation. The roles and responsibilities designed by cultures and norms of the society blended with religion are supposed to be mandatory and strictly followed by women. Where ever there is a slightest deviation, a case of violence occurs.Secondly, the most important factor is women are not treated as equal human beings. Women remain dependent upon their male relatives. Our text books rarely talk about and depict women in roles other than house wives, at least till 2015.How can a boy sitting in class just studying about world of men with minimal depiction of the remaining 50percent of population be expected to develop a sense of respect and acceptance for different roles of women in society — besides cooking and doing laundry, etc? These roles get inscribed in children’s minds from an early age such that when they grow up any deviation is seen as unacceptable. Similarly, one can see the role of media in recent years as depicting women in two or three specific categories — the suppressed ones, those into conspiracies of all sort, and the rebellious. Unfortunately, extreme traits are portrayed in a glamorous manner.As per the Human Rights Commission report compiled in 2016, no significant decline was visible in violence against women despite several legislative measures at provincial and federal level. The HRCP media monitoring showed that there were more than 2,500 victims of violence in that year and the nature of violence was sexual and domestic including burning incidents as well as honour killings. Alongside, there must still be a large number of unreported cases.Thirdly, we talk about fundamental human rights in our text books in connection with different constitutions and international declaration, we connect these issues with religion as well but the emphasis required for protection of rights of women seems to be lacking. Even in colleges and universities, the level of awareness is minimal, particularly with reference to specific legislations done in the past few years. The 2010 law for protection against workplace harassment is a case in point. Except for students of law, not many women students are likely to know about the law. As a result many cases remain unreported. Again even if the cases are reported the rate of prosecution is very low. The existing criminal justice procedures are so lengthy and torturous that victims at times prefer to stay quiet and stay back. The social and cultural pressures and discriminatory attitudes add up to the agony of victims.The state has to take concrete measures with a multipronged mechanism to raise awareness among masses about existing laws for protection of women. However, laws alone wouldn’t guarantee protection in our patriarchal society. The judicial system has to set certain examples of rule of law not just to reduce the number of cases but also to strengthen the campaign for eradication of behaviours that facilitate such incidents.Our educational and religious institutions have to move ahead of routine debates and educate the society about existing laws for protection of women. Awareness campaigns in educational institutions in rural and urban areas will definitely help.Media has to play its important role for minimising glorification of negativity and torture and violence. And finally, prosecution rate in violence against women needs to be improved. We need to understand that for a sustainable and secure society we have to give a sense of security and protection to our women first.

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