Munir ud din writes about the structural problems resulting in violence against women
In Pakistan, amid issues of national security, India’s brutality in Kashmir and corruption—only of targeted group—violence against women seldom succeeds in securing space on mainstream media. Violence against women is carried out at all three level: state, societal and domestic. But, when the extreme manifestation of violence surfaces , instead of tackling the issue with organised and well defined mechanisms, both ruler and ruled allow their sentiments to drive their actions which often leads to disastrous consequences. The emergence of such issues touches off debate on the islamisation policies of zia regime and often ends hailing his policy of public hanging of rapists and introduction of ordinances to put an end to violence against women. Amid all this appreciation of Zia’s policies, it is often ignored that his introduced ordinances, instead of protecting women against rape and domestic violence, further aggravated the situation.
Power and violence are also related in such a way that the accumulation of former at one hand paves the way for latter. Violence against women is one of the tools of patriarchal societies to keep them at subordinate positions. The reason of violence against women is this differential of power, where men enjoy dominant position and women are treated as their subordinates—completely dependent on them. This differential of power paves the way for further exploitation of women—sexually, physically and mentally—and the culture of silencing makes them silent endurers of sufferings.
Misinterpretation of religion and the monopoly of fundamentalists over it also contribute to violence against women. Their monopoly over religion is not only contributing to violence but also halting the way to do away with it. Women protections bills seldom come to parliament and are outrightly rejected by the religious parties. Their presence in legislative bodies rarely allow legislation to be done in favour of women.
Violence against women seems to have become integral part of our educational institutions. The vulnerability of campuses for female students is demonstrated by the rising number of harassment cases in educational institutions. The lack of student representation in harassment committees and transparency in the investigation further exacerbate the situation.
It is equally unfortunate to see the authorities—who have been assigned the responsibility of ensuring the safety of people—deviating from their duties. In an effort not to keep them accountable for cases of harassment , they offer remarks that promote the culture of rape in society. The statement given by CCPO Lahore in the wake of the Motorway incident is a vivid example of normalisation of rape. Instead of acknowledging the structural frailties in police force CCPO Lahore blamed woman’s coming out at night for her rape. The emergence of such is condemnable but they also help to trace the reasons of societal degeneration and provide opportunity to redefine the basic structure of society from anew.
But, Pakistan’s case has been different in redefining its society. When the extreme manifestation of violence surface, instead of demanding the proper legislation to put an end to such an act, run for the immediate solution of problems and consequently the structural redefinition of society is left uninterrupted.
The urgent need is to redefine the society with the foundation of equality, peaceful coexistence of diversity and without the discrimination on the basis of gender or race.