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Educations and Awareness female voices

Women’s Rights in Pakistan- Afzal Kohistani, Legislation on Women, and keyboard Jihadis

By Dr. FP

In 2012, Kohistan video scandal led to the murder of five women on the orders of a Jirga guided by 12 elders. The surfaced viral video displayed two men dancing on a local tune and five women clapping for them. The video of this private event from a wedding was leaked and the honour of the family of the women was attacked. Thus, they murdered all the participants of the video, including the two men. The suspects denied the allegation and the women that were presented before the commission (set by the supreme court for interrogation) were misidentified. This bitter story does not end here. Afzal Kohistani, brother to the two boys dancing in the video has recently been shot as well. Three of his brothers were already dead post the video leak due to condemnation by the Jirga for organising a mixed gathering of two different tribes as well as gender. This isn’t the first story of honour killing in the tribal areas of Pakistan and unfortunately it will not be the last. Afzal, wanted justice for the lives lost and in the quest lost his own life as well i.e. death for demanding justice. 

As I was reading the story of how some imposters were presented before the court by the suspects, I wondered if the video had not gone viral, the court will have to accept the proof with testimonies. Just the thought of it sent chills down my spine. Such cases don’t get reported most of the times but if they did, they could have gotten away with it with either a fake evidence or also killing anyone demanding justice. Murder of a human being, a step clearly condemned by the religion is openly done in places like Kohistan. In fact, Afzal Kohistani was murdered in the Bazaar of a big city, Abbottabad of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. 

Who will fight for justice now that Afzal is also dead. Very often there aren’t many set of rules, laws or guidelines for the law regulating agencies and many cases reach either the supreme court after failing to serve justice locally or are abandoned because no one follows up with case. I am not saying that we don’t have any regulations at all. The very constitution of Pakistan ensures equality and women participation in all spheres of life. National regulations have been developed on; dowry and bridal gifts (1976), acid control and acid crime prevention act (2011), prevention of anti-women practice act (2011), criminal law-rapes and honour- (2016), protection of women act (2004), electronic crimes and forced marriages act (2017), Pakistan Penal code –penalties to ensure safety in the streets, events and public places- (1860), protection against harassment of women at workplace act (2010). The 18th Amendment has also given provinces the responsibility for legislation regarding women’s rights which has led Punjab assembly to pass many bills such as protection of women against violence bill in 2015. The most relevant to the story quoted in the beginning of the essay is probably the Electronic crimes ordinance, ETO (2002), and prevention of electronic crimes act, PECA (2016). Both these laws have been used to address online harassment. Putting content related to an individual online without their consent has been addressed. One of the reasons behind the death of the young ladies in the video was its availability online without their knowledge or consent. There hasn’t been any update on the case after the death of Afzal. By highlighting this one event and segment of our society I wanted to highlight the overall issues in the system, It is not my intention to prove that this happens to all the women in Pakistan. Many societies are evolving as the women in the societies evolve and women have found their voices and spaces but it does not mean that we can forget the under privileged and marginalised women of this society. 

Online content in Pakistan can be sensitive as women have and are facing issues of privacy breach and misuse of contents on their virtual profiles. But even if they were an online celebrity the content they put online can backfire against them. The discussion on this topic will be incomplete if we do not mention the late Qandeel Baloch. She was murdered by her own brother in 2016, all in the name of honour. She had put content online that most people in Pakistan hated but also loved to watch and share. What happened with Qandeel is a demonstration of hypocrisy faced by many women in Pakistan.  

Thinking on the same lines, during my five years stay in the UK, except for a few insurance scams calls I never got any random phone call from a stranger, despite sharing my number at various platforms. Two days after I bought a sim card in Pakistan, I started receiving phone calls from strangers requesting on the text to talk to them. The frequency of the calls makes life very difficult and stressful. I blocked the number and Its now nine months past my return to homeland and blocking numbers has become a part of my regular telecom routine. 

Receiving messages from strangers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is a norm but getting a “Hi, how are you, what are you doing these days, what is your number?” sort of messages on linkedIn as well, can only happen in Pakistan. I am yet to understand why men of all age, size and shape would do that to a woman on a network dedicated strictly for professional use. If this is how they reach women online, I can only imagine how they treat women in their work places. I also hope that the safety of women within their reach is not at stake.

In terms of cyber bullying there is also a whole lot of honour brigade online, who have taken it upon themselves to create accounts on social media, follow female actors and comment on their character and slut shame them all the time. I don’t know how the actors deal with that scale of toxicity, toxic masculinity and religious scare mongery on a virtual space that belongs to them. I hope that just because they receive so much love from their fans, they do not neglect the hatefulness on their timelines and encourage people to spread love and be less judgmental. I say this because once one of our actors was seen smoking abroad and faced massive backlash for her dress selection and smoking and thus threatening our culture and faith. The actor chose to remain silent on it and I had respected that decision of hers. All until she said in an interview ‘Hardtalk’ to be precise, that she gets a lot of love from her fans and she understands that why they were upset. Unfortunately, the amount of love received does not justify the level of hate displayed. 

Right now we need men and women from all walks of life to stand up, speak up and carry smaller and bigger debates pertaining to the issues related to women at home and workplace. 

Categories
Educations and Awareness female voices Gender-based violence Women and Society

Proposal from HE, who must not be Remembered


Written by: Fozia Tahir for anonymous!

Sending a marriage proposal in Pakistan is like playing darts at home elsewhere.

  1. Give it a go, if it works very well, after all it was meant to be…
  2. If it doesn’t work, God forbid!! how could she ever say NO!!! (that characterless *************** -put as many stars as you can imagine-)

As one of my cousins had once asked me, “what is wrong with our boy?”. Now, why must I look for a fault in your boy to say no. I want to say no and it is my right to say no (FULL STOP). Who gives so many people the licence to ask me why I said no? especially when our beloved religion gives women the right to marry as well as other marital rights (see previous articles in the blog about marriage, dowry and divorce). But very often in such cases culture card is played to endorse oppression of baby girls. 

Funnily enough, when a women wants to say yes to a proposal, no further discussion is allowed on the topic. On the other hand when she wants to say no, the whole family sits her down and schools her on how amazing the boy and the family is and what benefits the matrimony could bring for Indo-Pak relationship (quite literally!).

I wish I could write more about the art, science and philosophy of marriage proposals in Pakistan but this post is not meant for that. It is actually based on a true story, where a boy, who had harassed a little girl at a very young age, decades later sent her a proposal and was very cross at getting ‘NO’ for an answer. I hope that this can shake people to be mindful about staying away from silly and irresponsible behaviour at a younger age and being mature enough when they ask for a girls hand later in their lives.

I am not saying that men don’t have problems when it comes to relationships and proposals, but the scale at which young girls and women suffer in this regard is incomparable to those of our fellow brethren, so I am really sorry that I will completely ignore your problems in this case.

The story is as under

‘Once upon a time there was a young girl in a place that allowed her to be wild and free. Despite many a lectures from her mother on why she should not go to her friends place and why she must be accompanied with an elder when leaving home, she did what she liked, which was to play outside with the kids from her street and come back home hours later. One day she was walking in the street alone and she encountered her cousin who was only a year or two older than hers. He took advantage of the opportunity and touched her every now and then while walking with her. Her mouth dried up. No one had told her what to do, if she ever encountered a situation like this. She wanted to shout but couldn’t so she ended up dodging him, running away until she got to her door.  The touching did not stop in the mean time. She went in, without making any noise and raised no further discussion on the topic. That boy and his face meant nothing to her. He deserved no emotion from her. Hate seemed too honourable for a little boy of his sort. That young cousin was dead, right there and right then for her. 

Decades later, her mother called her to tell her that she has a proposal. when she took his name, her ears deafened for a while. Seconds later, she asked her mother to say no as soon as possible without any further explanation. Fortunately, her parents weren’t too keen on the boy either so she got away with this one. The boy and his mother were cross about this (ofcourse). She has forgotten her place and how dare she say no to one of the finest boys in the family. 

She hadn’t forgotten her place. In reality He had forgotten his. How dare he send that proposal? did his mouth not burn with wildest of fire when he took her holy name with his filthy mouth? does he even remember what he had done to this girl or has he become holy and pious himself?

The biggest question,

Are women too emotional and worry too much about molestation and harassment while the accused man forgets it soon after committing it?

and, why must women forget such monsters? is there room for forgiveness in this case?

This doesn’t end here. This is a never ending problem of our society and we don’t really discuss it in organisations or at homes. Changing mindsets has become a must for our society and we have observed that education alone is not enough to change mindsets as the region that this lady is from claims to have highest literacy rate and an open mindset and so on…

 

P.s. I cried while writing this and I hope that it touches your hearts the way it has touched mine. 

P.P.s. Momma dears..Please Raise careful daughters and respectful sons!

 

 

Categories
Educations and Awareness female voices Women and Society

Fair, Lovely and Politically Incorrect

By: Fozia Tahir

Having lived in the UK for five years I had almost forgotten the importance of fair skin in Pakistan. I recently attended a musical event in my hometown in the north of Pakistan where majority of the population has lighter skin tone. The Host who of course happened to be from the south said, ‘the crowd was full of goray chittay people literally meaning, ‘fair skinned (beautiful) people’. The crowd is so used to such comments that no eyebrows were raised and no offence was taken. In the west however, the same host would have had to apologise soon after giving such a statement.

Why did no one question it?

Why were those who are not as fair skinned as most not offended?

Where exactly does this mind-set come from?

and why must we make peace with it?

We have been blaming colonialism and American influence on Pakistan for so many things but perhaps our mind-set is our own problem. Many politically incorrect things, including the obsession with fair skin, seems to have percolated deep down our thought process. I will not quote many research articles and figures here today but blame our media industry and the people involved in it for continuously reinforcing all the false ideas and poor mind-set that we have long fallen prey to.

Those who know Pakistan well would also know that television is the biggest form of entertainment for majority of the population residing in the urban as well as rural areas of Pakistan. People love to spend their afternoons and evenings in front of their TV. I wanted to see what was going on, on TV in terms of obsession with fair skin. I realised soon after that almost all the skin care products sell the very concept of getting lighter skin tone. Such as, 

Urdu: Hum larkiyon ka face fresh hona chahiye

Translation: Us, girls should have a fresh face

You shouldn’t second guess the name of the product. It is indeed called face fresh

Fair and lovely has long used women with dark skin tone as their models and shown their skin tone improve with the use of their product over time as an example.  This is 21st century and I think it’s about time that fair and lovely changes the name for the new lines it is creating.

What’s funnier is that some of these creams don’t display the products that they contain. E.g. I looked at the packaging of a famous whitening cream called gypsy amazing cream that only said at the front that it contains jojoba oil but no further ingredients were given at the back. It is obvious that the products contain bleach and few major ingredients should be placed at the back of the packing. Its not really my problem as I wouldn’t use the product unless I am conducting some kind of research experiment on the product but those who use it deserve to know what must the mystery magic box contain.  

Fair is not good and kaala (dark skin) is not bad and we need to break such stereotypes especially popular products like Fair and lovely whose consumers seem unaffected by such form of political incorrectness.  

The root of all our problems could be lack of education but many formally educated people also believe in the importance of fair skin. In fact, in Pakistan, fair skin is a requirement in the proposal checklist for a girl from the male side.

Women invest more time and money on their physical appearances and almost no time on personality growth..

Solution: Change aka Tabdeeli?

Change is coming. The newer generation is ready to fight all the stereotypes but we are still shackled by many concepts the like of fair is beautiful.

we have a long long long way to go until we speak about issues like pay gap and equal pay for equal work etc nevertheless we should not give up on our fights to break stereotypes.

Good Luck to us for that…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/66542607@N07/6266540192