Today is International Violence Against Women Day, this day celebrates the struggle of government and organizations for eliminating every kind of violence against all women. So let’s talk about Pakistan’s role in fighting the evil of violence against women. Pakistan ranks 164 out of 167 countries on the Women, Peace and Security Index 2019-2020, barely hovering above Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria. An estimated 5000 women are killed per year from domestic violence, with thousands of others maimed or disabled. Lisa Hajjar, an associate professor at the University of California describes abuse against women in Pakistan as “endemic in all social spheres.
In just two months since the highway assault, a police officer raped a woman in her home. A teenage boy murdered his cousin because she talked to male friend on the phone. A woman waiting for a bus after work was kidnapped and raped. A teenager committed suicide after being blackmailed by the men who raped her and videotaped the assault. A 6-year-old was clubbed to death by her father for making noise. Between January and June alone, there have been 3,148 reported cases of violence against women and children. Unfortunately many of these cases go unreported.
These were some horrifying statistics but let’s put this in some perspective. Violence (physical, sexual, mental) against women has always been a political issue but our hetero-conservative society dodged this conversation quite efficiently. Until recently the wave of feminist politics in Pakistan after the boost of #Metoo movement in 2016 changed the discourse of how we define violence against women in our mainstream conversation and debates.
Back in fall 2000, Angela Davis defined the violence against women in a keynote address at a conference titled “Color of Violence” Following is an excerpt from it.
Many of us now take for granted that misogynist violence is a legitimate political issue, but let us remember that a little more than two decades ago, most people considered domestic violence to be a private concern and thus not a proper subject of public discourse or political intervention. Only one generation separates us from that era of silence. The first speak-out against rape occurred in the early 1970s, and the first national organization against domestic violence was founded toward the end of that decade.
In the South Asian context, we all have been forced to believe some flawed concepts of violence. Domestic violence, rape and assault breeds out of systemic layers of aggression directed towards women. Tahira Abdullah- a feminist scholar co-relate this misogynistic behavior with the sense of impunity, men enjoy in our society. In our society the perpetrator is sure that he can’t be charged or even arrested for his evil; this behavior creates a sense of entitlement.
But then this entitlement is not natural. Our patriarchal set up is designed this way. This set up not only benefits men but also makes it impossible to hold them accountable for their actions.
The feminist argument that violence against women is not inherently a private matter, but has been privatized by the sexist structures of the state, the economy, and the family has had a powerful impact on public consciousness. But this had some repercussions too.
Recently after the motorway incident a lot of men initiated the conversation about problematic locker room talk (at least on social media) this was appreciated by many feminists but the truth be told, men talking about their problematic behavior doesn’t qualify them for the champion trophy. Women are not settling for bare minimum as it is a matter of their lives. The problem is how we normalize this behavior by not glorifying basic humane acts.
Women are angry and honestly they have every right to be. Aforementioned statistics are our reality now. Violence doesn’t occur in a vacuum it is instigated by a system which not just portrays it as a private matter but at worse normalizes it in our daily lives.
Violence was always a political issue and we need to address it like one.