Islamabad: Physical and verbal assaults against women have surged in Pakistan because of a recent decree by the chairman of Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) and a rising level of societal intolerance, rights activists say.
Last Month, Chairman of CII Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani had proposed a bill which says that lightly beating defying wives is allowed in Islam.
Instead of intensifying efforts to protect women’s rights, some ministers and senators insult women and use abusive language against them.
On June 8 pandemonium erupted in the National Assembly when Defence Minister Khawaja Asif called senior female lawmaker of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Dr. Shireen Mazari, a “tractor-trolley”.
Farzana Bari, a human rights activists and director of Gender Studies Department at Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad said the CII chairman’s had sent a signal to society after his pronouncement.
The question arises how people’s representatives, responsible for protection of women, can use derogatory remarks against women folk.
A thesis by Zaheerud Din Babur “Violence against women in Pakistan: Current realities and strategies for change” states that women in Pakistan live in a world, which is structured by strict religious, family and tribal customs, and that they are subjected to discrimination and violence daily.
On June 11, Senator Hamdullah, associated with Jamiat Ulema e Islam (Fazal), the largest religious party, used abusive language against a female analyst and rights activist Marvi Sirmed during a television show.
Aurat Foundation, an NGO working on women issues in its annual report “Violence against women in Pakistan” says violence against women in 2014 increased immensely.
“The existing notions such as beating of women in the name of Islam and superiority of males over females have (now) got some sort of justification,” Bari told News Lens Pakistan.
An environment has been created in society against women, she said.
“His statement has enhanced a sense of insecurity amongst women,” Bari added.
She said the chairman’s statement might stoke more violence against women. She said that social contract between citizens and state should be equal for all irrespective of caste, creed, religion and gender.
The country needs to improve its police and judicial system and induct women into those institutions to ensure protection of women rights, she said.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemned the CII recommendations, saying they “call for violence against women.”
“We think it is imperative that every right-respecting person must condemn such counsel unreservedly,” the Commission said in statement.
Maimoona Qasim, a teacher and mother of two, said Pakistani society doesn’t tolerate the role of women in society.
“It is a social stigma for a person if her sister or daughter works as a teacher, doctor, professor or journalist,” Qasim said.
She said: “I think the CII move leaves a direct impact on the situation on the ground. The Islamic body should take great care on issues pertaining to citizens irrespective of their ethnicities and gender.”
The Aurat Foundation’s report said violence against women increased in 2014 from the previous year by 28.2% to 10,070 reported cases.
The report found that on a daily average in 2014, six women and girls were kidnapped, four were raped or gang raped, four women and girls were murdered, two killed in so-called ‘honour’ killings, and three committed suicide.
Muhammad Shahid, communications officer wtih the Insaf Network Pakistan (INP) said: “It is these clerics who block gender equality within society, starting at household level.”
He said religious interpretation by some scholars fuels the already flamed miseries of women in this patriarchal society.
“These factors inadvertently justify violence against women, and in the absence of accountability for the perpetrators, they feel free to harass, exploit and abuse women,” he told News Lens Pakistan.
HRCP Joint Director Najmud Din told said, “It was extremely unfortunate on the part of the council to pronounce this.”
“I’ll not tie increase in violence with the statement of the Chairman CII because ….. This trend (intolerance and violence against women) already very much existed,” he told News Lens Pakistan.
Activist Shahida Shah, convener of the women’s rights organisation Takrah Qabailee Khwenday or Brave Tribal Sisters, declared that verbal and physical assault “are on the rise against women”.
“The government is unable to implement existing laws to protect women from violence because it is more interested in business oriented policies than ensuring protection of human rights,” Shah told News Lens Pakistan.
“Women do not feel safe to work in a male dominated society,” she added.
Sharafat Ali, an advocate and legal adviser to the Ministry of Human Rights, said women’s rights are being trampled on.
Article 35 of the Constitution clearly says that the state shall ensure protection of women, children and family life.
“The government has to adopt stringent measures to ensure protection of women, “Ali told News Lens Pakistan.
“Sensitization of masses on the rights of women and including such contents in syllabus in our education system where kids will learn to respect and protect women, will help reduce violence against women to great extent,” Shahid said.