Since November, most of the world’s attention has been on the “Emergency” (or rather, martial law) in Pakistan. And rightfully so. But the media has barely mentioned the grueling realities that still take place in Pakistan. The Trend Analysis of Human Rights Violations in 2005-2006 report by the formidable Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (whose chairwoman Asma Jehangir was placed under house arrest by Musharraf and accused of being “quite an unbalanced character“) found that there was a “substantial increase in human rights violations from 2005 to 2006.”
The key findings were:
- In the category of “killings,” which includes honor killings, adultery killings, and murder unrelated to the two former types, 2006 saw a 29% increase in cases since 2005. In general killings, 91% of all victims were women. The majority of women killed were married, and the primary reason for killings were for adultery. Most of the accused were the women’s husbands. Honor killings rose by 24%, though the number of cases is likely to be underreported.
- Rape and gang-rape increased by 129% in 2006, and most of the women raped are married. Rape cases involving minors doubled since 2005. HRCP points out that “the accused in the rape cases are predominantly influential people in the
community or landlords with the highest number of rapists in both 2005 and 2006, residents of the victim’s community.”
- Kidnapping cases also doubled since 2005, usually at the hands of an “acquaintance”, “local resident”, “neighbour” and “close-relative,” as well as the government, especially post September 2001. There has also been an increase in abduction and forced religious conversation of Hindu and Christian female minors who are then married off to older Muslim men.
- Burning, stove related burns and acid throwing increased, with the latter doubling, with husbands once again the primary culprits.
- Suicides and attempted suicides increased by 44.5%.Only in this category are the majority of victims men. For Christians and
Hindus, there was a 145% increase.The most common reasons for suicide/attempted suicide were domestic problems, “admonishment,” and unemployment. The percentage of minors committing or attempting suicide rose as well. The most preferred method was to poison themselves with pesticides.
These findings, along with the fact that bonded labor is still very much a problem in Pakistan, should not be left unseen.
We should also not overlook the fact that violence against women and desperation are not confined to Pakistan; they are happening across borders. Before we spiral into the rhetoric of “Islam is the root of all social evils in South Asia,” keep in mind that the Hindu fundamentalists are doing their share by kidnapping Hindu women who marry “outside of the community“- that is, women who married Muslim men or men of a different caste. Many Hindu women are “rescued” and remanded to a sorts of custody homes in an effort to tear them from their heathen husbands, as Amitava Kumar reports in his book Husband of a Fanatic. Hindu-Muslim couples have been targeted by fundamentalists as well. And of course, there were the barbaric atrocities against Gujarati Muslim women in 2002, as well as the murder of both Gujarati men and women who dared to marry spouses from religions different from their own.
So while it is important to keep tabs on the General/President, it is equally important to remember the everyday brutalities and injustices that the people of Pakistan face. But let’s not forget that India and Bangladesh are afflicted with the same problems as well. And while the manipulation of religion and using religion as a tool to terrorize others are certainly problems, we need to note the socio-economic factors as well. There’s something to be said about the Pakistani men who commit suicide because of a bleak present and hopeless future.
Not all is lost. In 2002, thousands of Bangladeshi men marched in Dhaka to protest acid attacks against women. Let’s hope that more men voice their resistance to patriarchal mentalities and demonstrate their solidarity with their female counterparts when it comes to violence against women.
This is a guest post. Desi Italiana blogs here.
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Filed in: Culture,India,Pakistan,Religion,South Asia