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Dehumanization of Women

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Whenever a nerve-racking crime against women is reported, there is some protest by the saner elements for a few days, and then it subsides till a new tragedy jolts us. Never before have the women of our society found themselves so brutally victimized and helpless as they are today.

The way they are being tortured, dehumanized, forcibly married, sold off, murdered and paraded naked through the streets speak volumes about the degradation and victimization of our weaker gender in a male-dominated traditionally sick society. The law seems toothless, the legislation ineffective, and the authorities indifferent.

About a month ago, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled that an adult, sane Muslim girl could marry on her own and she did not need her guardian's consent for the validation of her marriage. Though, the Federal Shariat Court in 1981 had already resolved the issue, a bench of the Lahore High Court, while disposing of the famous Saima-Shabina cases simultaneously, had overruled the FSC's verdict on the matter and stirred up an uproar.

An appeal against the verdict by the LHC bench had been pending in the Supreme Court since 1996 - a long period indeed for straightening out a very simple matter.

Forced marriages of adult Muslim girls are still the order of the day in our society. Not only adult girls but even minor ones are forcibly married, obviously against their will on the pretext that they are not sane enough even to know what a marriage stands for.

Thanks to our pre-historic, inhuman practices, ours might be the only part of the world where even infant and child marriages are solemnized with fanfare. Such tradition-stricken sick clans and tribes would prefer to sacrifice hundreds of lives, but would never compromise over their barbaric practices, which they unabashedly call as "traditions".

Look at the traumatized, forcibly divorced, shelterless Shaista Almani. A young, educated sane Muslim girl from a remote town in upper Sindh, who left her home and married Balakh Sher Maher against her parents' will. Since Balakh belonged to another clan, her marriage with him was not only against her parents' will but also against her clan's traditions for Almanis do not marry their girls out of their clan.

Pressure was mounted through different tribal chieftains by the Almanis on the Maher clan for the early retrieval of Shaista. Sensing a bloody tribal feud and a political backlash for Maher tribe, the chief sardar of the Maher clan reportedly managed to pressure Balakh for divorcing Shaista. However, the timely intervention by the judiciary did save Shaista from being crucified at the altar of karo-kari by the Almanis. She lost Balakh, who gave her a "forced divorce" for whom she put her life at stake and even left her family and tribe.

Take Afsheen Mussarat's case, for example. A computer science graduate from Multan , an adult sane Muslim girl, she wanted to marry her maternal cousin and classfellow, but her parents forcibly married her to her paternal cousin. Later, she ran away with her maternal cousin and the duo took refuge with some family acquaintances in the upcountry. Afsheen's parents, after tracking her down and convincing her that she would be pardoned and allowed to live with her husband, managed to bring her back to Multan . Few days later, she was reported dead. It was only after some NGOs and the media took up the case and launched a campaign that President Musharraf took notice of the case and ordered inquiry into it.

The initial inquiry and the medical report of the exhumed body proved that she was strangled. Her father, Mussarat Sahu, later confessed that he single-handedly strangled her, but the medial report claims that more than two people were directly involved in her murder. While the authorities are still to come up with the exact number of her killers, the poor Afsheen lost her life.

Why had Shaista and Afsheen to suffer such a fate? Their only crime was that they wanted to marry of their own free will - the inalienable right granted to them by their religion and the law of the land. The punishment: one lost her husband through "forced divorce" and the other was killed by her own parents to "save" their "honour".

The heart-rending stories of helpless women are endless. There is another horrendous addition. Ms. Faiz Batool, an elderly woman councillor from Sillanwali Tehsil in Sargodha District, was recently paraded naked through a local bazaar by the members of the Kalaryar tribe, an influential clan of the area, in order to settle some old scores. The disgraced Ms. Batool and her family are now reportedly being pressured by the same influentials to withdraw the complaint they have lodged with the local police against the perpetrators of such barbaric crime.

It goes without saying that we are witnessing an awful rise in such grisly and ghastly crimes against women in our society which now occur on a daily basis, and majority of them are not even reported. The worst is that the perpetrators of such crimes are not brought to book in the manner they should be.

The unabated, unquestioned oppression of women by male chauvinists thus seem to have crossed all previous moral and criminal benchmarks. A multitude of factors contribute to such a sorry state of our women. Widespread ignorance and illiteracy, compounded by anti-women bias in our feudal polity, have not only deprived women of their basic rights but also led to their brutal oppression. As a consequence, the inhuman practices of karo-kari, swara, walwar and other barbaric customs and traditions are still intact in this modern era and swallowing up the female populace of our society at an unprecedented rate.

The feudal lords, who rule our rural areas like personal fiefdoms, have always tended to tacitly encourage such barbaric customs for their petty ends. They fear that if they let their tribesmen disregard the tribal traditions, they might lose their hold over them. That is why they invariably discourage enlightenment and mass awareness through education and media.

On the other hand, the law enforcers and the local authorities always appear to be in collusion with these feudal lords in committing heinous crimes against women. The police do not even bother to register FIRs against them, not to speak of arresting them. Left with no recourse, the victims either remain silent to avoid inviting the wrath of the local lords, or, in rare cases, approach the local courts. And only on the intervention of these courts are the police compelled to entertain the FIRs.

It is high time the government took drastic measures to emancipate our women from age-old practices that degrade and dehumanize them and enable them live a respectable life. In this regard, the discriminatory Hudood Ordinance must be revised and made women-friendly. Female education should be made mandatory through proper legislation, and the feudals and tribals who oppose female education must be prosecuted and punished.


Dehumanization of women

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Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . factcouraud. (2007, May 22). Dehumanization of Women. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License