Hope Development's Struggle for the Rights of Women in Pakistan
Dr. shabnam Nazli
Hope Development’s mission is to educate and train our children in the way of peace and to empower women to become equal citizens within Pakistan. 'Equal Rights' are the key to equity, justice, and peace. Unfortunately, women in Pakistan never have had in the past nor do they now have the same rights as men in our society.
Pakistan’s Celebration House intends to encourage all women. Our vision is to publish the truth of the injustice for women in Pakistan and many other women around the globe: they do not have basic human rights and we are taking a stand for them in order to increase their self-confidence, to offer them more education and help make and enforce state laws for their protection as well as to share the causes behind the violence against them.
Women in Pakistani society are marginalized, oppressed and downtrodden. Every day the newspapers are full of stories about horrible crimes against women like Purdah (Forced to Cover Face), Child Marriage (Vani), Acid Throwing, Bride Burning, Watta Satta (Exchange Marriages), Dowry Death, Murder of Pregnant Women, Human Trafficking, Sexual Slavery, Forced Prostitution, Sexual Violence, Rape, Violence Against Prostitutes, Female Genitalia Cutting, & other women's issues like domestic violence and the killing of innocent women in the name of a family's honor. Women are presented as disloyal persons and vulgar objects worthy of contempt.
Women are considered 2nd class citizens whereas men are 1st class citizens. The head of a family is usually male. All the decisions are made by the male members of the family even where the husband is away or dead other male members make decisions for the fatherless family in an undemocratic way. The opinion of women are not held in respect even in the matters of their own marriages. On the birth of a male baby great ceremonies are held with food and drink while with the birth of a female baby an atmosphere of a household like that of a funeral prevails. From childhood a male child is given the best food while a girl child is given left-overs. A male child is considered to have all rights to hold the property of his parents but a female child is left with nothing.
Women feel insecure in this situation, they are insecure while going to school, Churches and markets. They are continually fearful of being harassed as they go about their daily and weekly errands, and they are insecure even in their own homes with their own family members like husbands, fathers, brothers and even brother-in-laws who commit domestic violence against them. When women report these crimes to the police, it is considered a domestic affair that does not involve the police whereas in the United States Violence Against Women and Children is forbidden by law and the law breakers are prosecuted for their crimes. In many countries like the United States, men...husbands, boyfriends, fathers, uncles, cousins, brother-in-laws etc., i.e. all men, are punished with fines and imprisonment as well as placed in Domestic Violence Therapy Programs to help them deal with the issues that they face at home. In Pakistan, Domestic Violence sometimes leads to honor killings. In many cases it was observed that women are killed for inheriting property but the real reason was really an illicit relationship with unknown persons. According to the UNO charter of human rights, everyone has right to life and it is the duty of governments to secure the life of its citizens. It is said that Honor Killing is a tradition against women who select their mates themselves while the constitution of Pakistan and other humanitarian laws allow women to select their mates when the have attained the age of 18 years. So women are killed without regard to their basic human rights or even the laws that are on the books and remain unenforced.
No doubt the Pakistani government could take quick action on complaints and have a few laws to protect the Human rights of women, but still more then 84% of the cases and stories remain invisible and unreported because of the fear in women of the overall Pakistani society.
The practice of summary killing of a person suspected of an illicit liaison is known as karo kari (Exchange Marriages) in Sindh and Balochistan. In December 2004, 44 cases were reported. In 2005 Pakistan has witnessed an alarming increase in the menace of so-called honor killing cases as 4,383 women fell victims to Karo Kari over the last four years. 2,909 women were victimized over a 6 month period (January through June 2010) in Punjab, including 102 “honor killings.” These crimes against women included Honor Killings, Sexual Harassment, the compelling of women to marry, the rape of women, sometimes even by family members and other offenses related to marriage law. The offices of the District Police Officers (DPOs) in 25 out of 28 monitored districts of Punjab reported 700 FIRs on crimes targeting women in February 2011 while in January the police administration observed in 23 out of 29 districts that 578 crimes against women were reported. Nationwide, the police in 33 out of 69 districts observed 853 reported crimes against women. Four in every five cases of crimes against women were recorded in Punjab districts. This was a significant increase on Punjab ’s 67 per cent of crimes against women in January. Many Honor Killings have been committed against women who marry against their family’s wishes, who seek divorce or who have been raped.
Unfortunately, Pakistan is not the only country that experiences such behavior towards women. Though things are different in the western world, such behavior still occurs. Just over one hundred years ago, women had no legal rights, no right to vote. Women were able to go to school and University and better able if they were from wealthy families. In time, things will change in Pakistan and HDO has great opportunities to help shape the future of our people through the celebration of women. The direct beneficiaries of this project will be women of Pakistan but the reach will go beyond the Pakistan borders.
Pakistan holds fast to its’ deep-seeded traditionalism which makes it is difficult to work for peace and equality for women’s rights. With terrorism and political instability, bad economy, wrong images and weak information from media, international laws and policies from foreign foundations, and ignorance regarding the regions of Pakistan; problems continue and in some cases seem to be worse. The world makes complaints and demands to change in this country but with ignorance of others, it will not happen. Since our NGO was founded in 1997 by a Feminist group, we have struggled for women’s rights and peace in Pakistan. There are many cases and stories still untold because of the fear women have in this society.