Sunday, April 22, 2012

Domestic Violence Bill, Halala, Triple Talaq & Mullahs - 2

“WHAT would you do if your wife arrived home at four in the morning and you didn’t even know where she had been?” boomed Senator Dr Ismail Buledi, the JUI-F senator. He was part of a TV discussion on the domestic violence bill (DVB) and was expressing opposition to the proposed legislation on the grounds that it would promote ‘western-style freedoms’, was un-Islamic and would lead to the dismantling of ‘our family structures and values’. If his contention hadn’t been so sad, it would have been laughable. Doesn’t he know that if your spouse (man or woman) arrives home at four in the morning and you haven’t the foggiest where they have been and why, your relationship may well be over anyway and is best terminated? No, the good doctor would rather take a whip to the wife and reform/cure her of her disappearance disease and still want to own her even if every inch of her skin is broken and her whole body represents different shades of black and blue. One only need google the senator’s name to find out what constitutes Islamic for him with suggestions that the doctor has a deep interest in not only the disappearance disease of spouses but also in duty-free diesel, dare one say in itself a disease rampant in the JUI-F hierarchy. No. I am not being facetious about an issue so grave. Dr Buledi, like all good JUI-F leaders and legislators, is a man of God no doubt who doesn’t tire of saying Islam accords a special status, rights and dignity to women witnessed nowhere else. So, the senator must be in the company whose ranks at last count stood at many, many million strong. Yes, the ranks where all of us have figured either permanently or temporarily at one point or the other: male chauvinists well-endowed with hypocrisy. All the ‘family structure, values’ and of course religion that are thrown at our activists, bulk of them women, battling biases of Himalayan proportions, in order to seek an existence rooted in equality are no more than an attempt to maintain the status quo. A status quo where we are free to treat half of humankind at the best of times as a coveted object of beauty and in most other cases as mere property to be used, abused at will. Tell me, what is acid-throwing symptomatic of if not such a mindset: if I cannot own a woman, no one else will as I will disfigure her, mutilate her, leave her good for no one else. Sick. Very sick indeed. We all condemn acid-throwing, don’t we? I am sure so does the good senator and most of his ilk, as was evidenced in a recently passed law. But he has a different view about ‘disciplining a spouse gone astray’, and would think nothing of prescribing the raising of a hand, of administering a good beating to a wife, in order to make her fall in line. It isn’t about religion, it isn’t about family structures, it isn’t about our values vis-à-vis western-style freedoms. It’s about ownership. It is about the vilest and most archaic notion of a woman’s place in our midst. So, what’s new in all this? Haven’t we seen a raft of legislation in the country through the late 1970s and 1980s consigning women to a secondary status? And all this justified, as we do with most of our base instincts, in the name of religion and God. But, yes, wouldn’t one argue, the 1980s mainly belonged to a dictator who pursued an obscurantist agenda with a zeal that would put to shame the enthusiasm of most men of cloth whatever their denomination. REFERENCE: Not in the name of God Abbas Nasir 14th April, 2012

“You must understand the environment in Pakistan,” Musharraf added. “This has become a money-making concern. A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada, or citizenship, and be a millionaire, get yourself raped.” - The Washington Post, September 13, 2005

On October 8, several hundred activists and concerned citizens, including parliamentarians, gathered in front of Parliament House in Islamabad, to protest against the government's inaction with regard to the so-called honour killings and increasing violence against women in the country. This rally follows several previous ones on similar issues and staged in the hope that our elected representatives realize the gravity of the situation and take action to outlaw honour killings. In the name of honour, to defend a family, clan or tribe's honour, many injustices and cruelties have been perpetrated against thousands of women in Pakistan's history. Just two years ago, we saw a panchayat in the small village of Meerwala in southern Punjab order an innocent woman to be raped by several men as punishment for an alleged affair that one of her brother committed with a woman from another tribe. Once the story got out, it made international headlines. All hell broke loose, at least initially, with the Supreme Court calling it the "most heinous crime of 21st century Pakistan" and ordering an anti-terrorism court to hear the case. Six men were eventually sentenced to death while eight were acquitted. However, their defence lawyers moved the high court and their appeal is currently pending. For its part, the government gave the woman, Mukhtaran Mai Rs 500,000 and it is believed that aid offers came in from overseas and from private sources as well. She decided that with the money she would build a school in her village. According to a report a few months ago, her school is yet to be completed. The Supreme Court was right in calling it the most heinous crime seen by Pakistanis in this century. This century yes, but what was the most heinous crime the country witnessed during the previous century, specifically when General Ziaul Haq was in power, a time when the country was exposed to a veritable ocean of arms and drugs and when infamous laws like the Hudood and the Qisas and Diyat ordinances were enacted, perhaps a crime against Pakistan itself. But if one were to single out an incident and call it the equivalent of the Meerwala tragedy, it would have to be the horrific events that took place in Nawabpur, not far from Meerwala, 20 years ago. Two women and a nine-year-old girl, were paraded naked on March 31, 1984, through the small galis of Nawabpur, a small, sleepy town some 10 kilometres from Multan. The women's brother-in-law, Akbar, was a local carpenter, who had earned a name for himself by becoming skilled at his craft. The man, according to one account which appeared three weeks after the incident in this newspaper's weekly magazine, was that he had been having affairs with women from the town's leading feudal Sheikhana clan. As such things are "settled" in a feudal/tribal context, several dozen men of the clan made their way to Akbar's house, severely beat him up and then did the same to his two sisters-in-law and nine-year-old sister. Apparently, not content with their bestiality, they then proceeded to drag the two women and girl to the streets, naked. According to the report, "Talking to two dead women" (April 20, 1984) by Zafar Samdani: "A group of about 40-50 revenge-drunk men had entered their (the women's house), beat up their brother-in-law Mohammad Akbar to a pulp, stripped them naked by tearing their clothes ... and then herded them towards the main street, waving their arms, pistols, iron-mounted lathis and other weapons victoriously... When the women tried to hide their bodies with their hands, they (the men) prodded them with sticks or just hit them. When they tried to hide their faces, they pulled their hair so that they raised their faces." Beaten beyond recognition, Akbar died six days later from his injuries. Talking to the writer of the article, the chief of the Sheikhana clan at that time and chairman of the union council of Nawabpur, Malik Mohammad Baksh, said that the action of the men (he called them "boys") from his clan was understandable given Akbar's shenanigans because of which they were "terribly angry". He also said that though they were "terribly angry," reports of their "misdeed had been grossly exaggerated". One can only be astonished by the audacity of this man who probably saw it fit to deny or justify the parading of women naked at gunpoint, because one of their relatives allegedly had an affair or affairs with female relatives of the men who came to take revenge. A military court heard the case and after the incident an amendment (through the Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance 1984 - Section 354 A) was inserted in the Pakistan Penal Code. It increased the maximum sentence from two years in jail to capital punishment for anyone who forced a woman to strip naked in public. Despite that, the men tried in the Nawabpur case were not given capital punishment or even life sentence. In fact, two months later they were all released on bail. Akbar's shattered and broken family left the village fearing that the released men might return and persecute them. Quite ironically, a fortnight after the Nawabpur incident, a military court in a separate case sentenced a man and a woman to 20 lashes each after finding them guilty of committing adultery. It is 20 years on and one wonders whether anything has really changed as far as the misogynist trends in Pakistani society are concerned. Meerwala, which happened just two years ago, would perhaps tell us that not much has changed. In fact, the same year, one witnessed several cases of young teenage girls being "gifted" to men to settle tribal disputes. Earlier this year, a young girl in interior Sindh was shot dead by male relatives after she dared to dance during a family wedding ceremony. Perhaps one difference is that when the Nawabpur incident took place the kind of press and television coverage that Meerwala received did not exist. Other than that, the military man in charge today at least professes to holding views that are more enlightened than those of General Zia. And yes, the National Assembly and the Senate have several dozen female legislators now. But they haven't really made much of an impact, or to put it more precisely, the male-dominated politics of Pakistan hasn't allowed them to do anything of significance. One or two members of parliament who do speak quite vociferously on women's issues, such as Kashmala Tariq of the PML or Sherry Rehman of the PPP (Parliamentarians) are either shouted down (as the National Assembly speaker did recently with Ms Tariq), subjected to a thoroughly unwarranted attack on their personal character or are thought to be too westernized and elitist to be of any consequence (as is the case with Ms Rehman). In fact, a privilege motion was moved recently against Kashmala Tariq by a member of her own party, the PML, after she said, in response to a reporter's question that she wasn't made a minister because she did not have the right surname or connections. On one occasion she also received comments on her looks from some male members of the National Assembly during parliamentary proceedings, giving the impression that perhaps some of our MNAs had never seen a female face before. Pretty much the same thing happens at the provincial level. In the case of Punjab, some of the PML women MPAs have said that they often find themselves sidelined during the proceedings or aren't given enough time or opportunity to speak in a debate. As for the role of women in the Balochistan or NWFP assemblies, the less said the better, especially in the latter where they prefer to be silent much of the time and let their erstwhile male colleagues in the MMA take control of parliamentary proceedings. If they try and protest against this bias, they are deemed by the men as being too troublesome or noisy. So, while we have lots of women legislators, the male-dominated system doesn't let them do anything at all. In fact, its inherent anti-women attitude is geared towards denying them an effective voice/role in parliament just as it happens throughout the rest of society. Besides, the role of our so-called intellectuals, who should be more vocal in their demands for social reform, especially in areas such as these that involve the equality of the sexes and human dignity, has yet to materialize. This is probably why, even 20 years after Nawabpur and two years after Meerwala, various governments continue to procrastinate over legislation against crimes committed in the name of honour. The fact that the print and electronic media report such things with greater alacrity and regularity than before is a positive sign and is aimed at raising public awareness. But then, who doesn't know that ordering a woman to be raped for a crime committed by her brother, or parading women naked in public is reprehensible and can be done only by beasts masquerading as humans? Clearly, increased media reporting of such happenings and greater awareness levels have not persuaded any government - not even one led by a self-professed enlightened moderate - to enact legislation to tilt the balance back, however slightly, in favour of women. In the past year alone, senior government functionaries, up to the ministerial level, have said at least a dozen times that a law will be "enacted soon". The other day it was reported that the National Assembly's standing committee on law and human rights had finally approved a draft of a proposed law on this issue. If the bill is approved by both houses, and a law is enacted, perhaps a significant change will be witnessed since the abominable events of Nawabpur shook this country 20 years ago. REFERENCE: The tormenting memory of Nawabpur By Omar R. Quraishi 12 October 2004 Tuesday 26 Shaban 1425

Fatawa Alamgiri Ek Nazar do read how Immoral & Absurd our Mullahs are.

Teen Talaq Aur Halala Part 4 Of 6 (By Syed Tauseef ur Rehman)

The Supreme Court of Pakistan released their decision on April 21, 2011, on the appeals launched by Mukhtaran Mai and others in regards to her rape case. The court dismissed all the appeals. Five of the six men accused of gang rape in the case were ordered released from prison. The outcome was surprising to many. Despite the sense of anger and frustration Mukhtaran Mai must be feeling now after a decade-long battle, she has so far publicly showed no despondency. After yesterday’s verdict, her twitter feed announced that “No court can weaken my resolve to stand against injustice.” Of course, Mukhtaran would not be the first women to suffer from injustice. Hundreds of women are murdered each year, and most are the victims of ‘honour’ killings. More women are kidnapped. Others are burnt, either victims of acid attacks or domestic ‘accidents’ involving a gas stove while cooking. Many more women are sexually harassed at the workplace or in public spaces. And then there are the other high-profile rape cases that have grabbed headlines and shocked and angered us in the past: Dr Shazia Khalid and Sonia Naz. Unfortunately, things do not seem to be improving. As stated in an Express Tribune editorial, 2010 gave women little to cheer about: “Thanks to the lethargy of the Senate, the Domestic Violence Bill was allowed to lapse while sections of the Protection of Women Act were nullified by the Federal Shariat Court. Rape and honour killings continue unpunished while women parliamentarians, who are most likely to speak out on these issues, are sidelined mainly because most of them were chosen on reserved seats.” Sadly the increased awareness and discussions about the mistreatment of women in Pakistani society has provided little progress to their status. Tribal culture and backward traditions are steeped in misogynistic attitudes that can not easily be rinsed out of the mix. What’s more worrying, though, is that there are signs these outdated and unfair attitudes seem to be becoming more entrenched, if not more commonplace. There is a long-overdue need for parliament and the judiciary to get serious about protecting women’s rights and ensuring women’s status as equal members of society through clearly worded and undiluted legislation, as well as consistently honest implementation of those laws. The case of Mukhtaran Mai is reminder of that. As the esteemed activist and commentator I.A. Rehman wrote for Newsline in 2005, “During the debate on the incidence of rape in Pakistan the government has tried to defend itself by cataloguing what it considers acts of great favour to Pakistan’s womenfolk. The flaw in this approach is obvious. No good acts that might have been done to promote the interest of women can erase the anguish and the shame that incidents of rape cause to Pakistani people every year. It is like telling a hungry and jobless young man to stop complaining because the government has built a motorway that runs close to his village. In any case, the government’s record leaves little to write home about.” Below are a few articles from Newsline‘s archives that have tracked the struggles of women and the women’s movement in Pakistan and show that despite all the energy and rhetoric applied to the cause, hateful and outdated attitudes have blocked the way forward like mountains separating an arid plain from a flowing freshwater river beyond. REFERENCE: From the Archives: The Struggles of Women in Pakistan By Talib Qizilbash 22 APRIL 2011
Fatawa Alamgiri Ek Nazar do read how Immoral & Absurd our Mullahs are.

Teen Talaq Aur Halala Part 5 Of 6 (By Syed Tauseef ur Rehman)

Deemed as one of the most savage ‘honour’ killings to be reported in Pakistan yet, Samia Sarwar’s cold-blooded murder in April 1999 aroused a great deal of publicity and outrage both at home and internationally. While most ‘honour’ killings in Pakistan are committed in tribal, rural, or deprived communities, Samia’s case was different. She was the child of Haji Ghulam Sarwar, head of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce, and her mother was a doctor. Four years before her tragic demise, Samia and her two children came to live with her parents – she complained of incompatibility with her husband – and was pursuing a degree in law. During this period, Samia fell in love with an army officer named Nadir, and due to her parents’ refusal to let them marry, they planned to elope. Threatened by her father for sullying the family’s ‘honour,’ Samia fled to Lahore where she took refuge in human rights lawyer Hina Jillani’s shelter. However, the mother pleaded with the daughter to meet with her on the false pretext that they had accepted Samia’s desire to marry Nadir and that she was arriving with the divorce papers of her first marriage. Samia believed her, not knowing what was to come. On the afternoon of April 6, her mother entered Jillani’s office, accompanied by an unknown man, who was allegedly helping her to walk. Without a second to spare, he shot at Samia, splattering blood on the wall behind her as she instantly fell to her death. Running out the door where Samia’s uncle awaited them, the hitman noticed a police guard crouching behind the reception desk, but before he could shoot him, the police guard shot him dead first. Amid this chaos, Samia’s mother and uncle took Jillani’s colleague Shahtaj Qizilbash hostage and made their escape. After the brutal incident, Jillani went to court, thinking this to be an ideal case for prosecution. “When the FIR was lodged, Samia’s uncle, who had taken our colleague hostage, was prosecuted and fined, and the case was sent for trial. But even before the hearings could begin, Samia’s parents used the Qisas and Diyat Law to thrash out a compromise among themselves and escape any prosecution under the law,” says Jillani in conversation with Newsline. Shockingly enough, certain sections of society and several religious organisations overwhelmingly sided with Samia’s parents and accused Jillani and her sister Asma Jahangir (also a leading Pakistani human rights attorney) of misleading women in Pakistan and contributing to the country’s bad image abroad. Fatwas were issued against the sisters declaring them “kafirs” and instigating the “believers” to kill the two women. In wake of the harassment faced by Jillani and Jahangir, the then PPP Senator Iqbal Haider tabled a resolution in the Senate condemning the killing of Samia. In response, ANP leader Ilyas Bilour questioned the morals of Jillani and Jahangir: “We have fought for human rights and civil liberties all our lives but wonder what sort of human rights are being claimed by these girls in jeans.” Out of 87 Senators, only four supported the resolution: Iqbal Haider, Aitzaz Ahsan, the late Husaain Shah Rashdi of the PPP, and MQM’s Jamiludin Aali. Among those who opposed it included Mushahid Hussain Syed, Javed Iqbal and Akram Zaki. Justice remained a far cry for Samia. “Not only was there no justice for Samia because of the flaws in the laws themselves, but also, when the resolution on ‘honour’ killings went to the Senate, they refused to pass it,” says Jillani. Under the Qisas and Diyat Law instituted in 1990, a murderer can be pardoned under two circumstances: either by paying blood money to the victim’s family (diyat), or if the victim’s family compromises and forgives the murderer. In this case, Samia’s wali (her father) ‘forgave’ her mother and uncle who were both obvious accomplices to the murder, thus rendering the case resolved. No convictions were ever made. REFERENCE: What ‘Honour?’ By Zara Farooqui 31 MARCH 2011
Fatawa Alamgiri Ek Nazar do read how Immoral & Absurd our Mullahs are.

Teen Talaq Aur Halala Part 6 Of 6 (By Syed Tauseef ur Rehman)

General Pervez Musharraf’s remarks, quoted above, stunned Pakistan’s entire public, women activists in particular were smitten to the marrow. Quite a few international figures, such as the Prime Minister of Canada, were equally shocked and outraged. Subsequently, General Musharraf asserted that that he had been misquoted, while The Washington Post issued a statement reaffirming its original text. President Musharraf has returned to the subject more than once and official spokesmen are threatening organisations (un-named) that they accuse of maligning Pakistan before international audiences. Unfortunately, neither the President nor his spokespersons have cared to support their fulminations with evidence. It would have simplified matters if they had given the number of women who have gone abroad by presenting themselves as rape victims and of those who have made money. As far as human rights activists are concerned, they have not sought visas or cash grants for any victim of rape. Indeed there is very little support in civil society for the practice followed by some of Pakistan’s leaders under which cheques are issued by government by way of compensation for rape and other forms of trauma. The government alone is responsible for making human suffering a commodity for sale.

The issue now is not the words and phrases actually used by General Pervez Musharraf while referring to rape cases in Pakistan. The issue is the establishment’s mindset which is closed to reason and sanity. The totalitarian rulers’ intolerance of criticism is proverbial. Their feeling of lack of legitimacy makes them hypersensitive to any suggestion of deficiency or shortcoming on their part. But that never alters reality.

Violence against women is endemic in Pakistan. Incidents of rape and gang rape are on the increase by all accounts. The issue is much too serious to be disposed of in casual rhetoric. The issues framed by General Musharraf are, firstly, that rape of women in Pakistan is not as serious a problem as it is in many other countries of the world, including such advanced countries as France. Secondly, Pakistan is maliciously singled out for criticism on the basis of rape cases. Thirdly, NGOs that highlight rape cases in Pakistan are working against the national interest. Lastly, the present regime has done everything for victims of rape. For example, the help extended to Dr. Shazia to go abroad. All these issues can be discussed without taking leave of the norms of decent discourse.

General Musharraf’s anger at his favourite punching bags on the ground that they malign the country before foreign audiences is equally misdirected. Much before any NGO raises its voice against a rape incident, the world comes to know of it from newspapers and the electronic media. Some of the most widely publicised incidents, such as the cases involving Mukhtaran Mai, Dr. Shazia and Sonia Naz, were reported first and extensively by the media. All leading newspapers of Pakistan are available to the world via the internet. Does the government of Pakistan propose to tell the newspaper proprietors to stop putting their newspapers on the internet because by broadcasting stories of rape in Pakistan they are maligning the fair name of their motherland?

Official rhetoric about Pakistan’s image and circumstances in which Pakistan can suffer loss of reputation demand a longer rebuttal than space constraints permit at the moment. The fact which the authorities must try to grasp is that report of any crime in a country does not bring it as bad a name as does the absence of response to violations of human rights by the state and civil society. If the national media and the much maligned civil society organisations do not take notice of brutal treatment of women and children or members of minority communities, Pakistan will invite greater opprobrium than offences against women alone, because civil society will be accused of conniving with the wrongdoers. Similarly, the state invites less criticism for what is done by criminals in its territory than for its failure to create adequate and effective redress mechanisms. In the final analysis, therefore, a state wins kudos or attracts censure by its own acts of commission and omission and does not need any assistance, benevolent or malignant, from civil society.

During the debate on the incidence of rape in Pakistan the government has tried to defend itself by cataloguing what it considers acts of great favour to Pakistan’s womenfolk. The flaw in this approach is obvious. No good acts that might have been done to promote the interest of women can erase the anguish and the shame that incidents of rape cause to Pakistani people every year. It is like telling a hungry and jobless young man to stop complaining because the government has built a motorway that runs close to his village. In any case, the government’s record leaves little to write home about.

The government can claim credit for increasing women’s seats in the national and provincial assemblies and for reserving seats for women in the Senate, although some of the credit has been washed away by its retreat, as evident from the reduction in women’s representation in the local bodies.

The government, unfortunately, cannot claim any credit for adopting what is called the karo kari law because the law presents no threat to those who kill women for a variety of reasons and then claim that they have done their duty by taking the life of defenceless creatures for the sake of honour. So long as the government continues to beg the issue of compoundability of murder this measure will remain ineffective.

It is quite amazing to find the government putting Dr Shazia’s case in its credit column. References to this case betray the government’s inability to finalise its brief. On the one hand, non-government organisations are castigated for sending Dr. Shazia abroad and, on the other hand, the government demands credit for facilitating her exit from Pakistan and for giving her a considerable amount in dollars. Why did the government give her money? Will it be able to give similar amounts to every victim of rape? What was the hurry in sending her abroad? Everybody knows how difficult and time-consuming any effort to secure government funds for a citizen in distress is. What is it that persuaded the government to complete the expulsion of Dr. Shazia and her husband from Pakistan within a few days? Dr. Shazia’s desire to leave the country is being used against her quite shamefacedly. It can be shown that Dr. Shazia’s decision to leave the country was based on the shabby and oppressive treatment she received not only from the lowly minions of the state but also from the high authorities after her story had broken. Who doesn’t know that she was kept in virtual detention and denied contact with supporters and sympathisers or with anyone who could commiserate with her. Pakistan’s rulers stand firmly indicted for making the country unsafe for victims of the worst forms of violence and thuggery.

That rape is one of the most serious issues concerning Pakistani women can easily be demonstrated. Statistics gathered from newspapers alone show that during the first eight months of the current year, at least 135 women had been raped and 134 subjected to gang-rape. The number of victims is by no means small. There may be countries with higher incidents of rape but that’s no consolation to Pakistani women, especially those who have had the misfortune of suffering the trauma of rape. What makes the situation more intolerable is the considerable evidence that the evil is spreading and is justified by powerful groups. The incidents of rape are no longer confined to underdeveloped rural areas as cases are being reported from urban, and semi-urban areas where such incidents were not known to occur earlier on. Besides, cases of rape and gang-rape under the order of a jirga or panchayat is a very recent addition to the history of crime in this country. Feudals in other countries of the world are also known to have caused women to be ravaged by their henchmen, but it is difficult to cite the example of any country where such atrocities are now sanctioned by recognised bodies. Thus the basic cause of concern in Pakistan is not merely the incidents of rape; the real question is that the factors contributing to this crime are multiplying.

One of the factors contributing to the incidence of rape is the strengthening of feudal values in the country. These values have been bolstered by the consolidation of the patriarchal system in the name of belief. Anti-women biases in society have been strengthened by the rise of the conservative clergy and a visible decline in the efficacy of the system of justice. Finally, some of the changes in the penal laws, supposedly in response to ideological obligations of the state, have emboldened the criminal elements that could earlier be checked through strict compliance with reasonable laws.

The nexus between increased incidents of rape and declining public confidence in the system of justice is quite obvious. Considerable evidence is available to show a growing public preference for informal forums of settling disputes. The jirga/panchayat system which in the past was limited to a few districts has appeared in many districts where it was not known before and now these forums have become active in metropolitan centres too. All jirgas are strictly male affairs and are steeped in feudal norms. They cannot understand the woman’s point of view and have difficulty in recognising her as a citizen entitled to enjoy fundamental rights. Thus, despite all the campaigns by the civil society and some effort by the judiciary and administration to curb vani and swara customs, women are still given away in forced and unreasonable matches to settle disputes. The plight of families that approached jirgas/panchayats is known.

The most essential fact is that Pakistani women cannot be guaranteed dignity of person and protection against violence without commitment to a process of society’s transformation so as to ensure women equality of rights with men, especially in terms of social and economic independence. Instead of looking at women’s problems separately, they have to be viewed in the context of Pakistan’s needs for social regeneration. Justice for women is impossible in a period of feudal resurgence and appeasement of conservative clergy. Authoritarianism itself is incapable of appreciating women’s concerns just as it is incapable of appreciating the demands of federalism or social justice. Anyone who wishes to be fair to women must be at the barricades against feudalism, exploitation of belief for political gain and authoritarianism (especially the variety sold in democratic wrappings).

However, to say that women cannot be promised any relief till the whole of Pakistan society is reformed is blatantly unrealistic because women should not be considered merely as prospective beneficiaries of social change. Their right to define the objects of change and to work for their realisation cannot be denied.

The strategy to wash the stigma that the high-profile rape figures bring to the country must involve simultaneous work on several fronts. The laws that offer any protection to women need to be enforced, and new laws made to cover areas that have not received attention so far. There must be some way to ensure that these laws are duly implemented. It will be necessary to sensitise not only the judiciary but also a large body of policy makers and moulders of public opinion. And if those in power cannot manage civil expression while referring to women who are victims of gross violence, they may try to discover the virtue of violence. REFERENCE: Rape of Reason By I. A. Rehman 11 OCTOBER 2005 I.A. Rehman is a writer and activist living in Pakistan. He is the director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Secretariat. 

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