In Summer of 2009, I interned at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan as a research intern. Part of my job was to compile data through research to prepare an advocacy report for the organization. I used the theme of my Freshman essay:
“Violence against Women in Pakistan:
A Deeply Flawed Legal System
and a Patriarchal Mindset”
Below is an excerpt from the final essay and report:
"Her eyes widened in terror as she saw the creatures emerge from the background. She had only heard their barks till then, but her heart jumped in her throat as she saw the hungry dogs lash at her. She tried to crawl away from them, trying to save herself as the men watched. But the dogs were too quick for her, and too hungry. The dogs jumped at her, embedding their teeth deep in her skin. She shrieked and writhed in pain, as the dogs growled, clawing at her, trying to keep her down, ripping her flesh apart. She shrieked and begged the men to stop the dogs. As she shrieked in uncontrollable fear and pain, she saw one of the men raise his gun and point the muzzle at her. The time seemed to stop. As she writhed, she saw him pull the trigger, more than once and she slowly fell into the deep abyss from where no one returns.
This is the story of Tasleem Solangi; an extraordinary girl, and yet with a fate no more different than those of millions of other Pakistani women. Tasleem Solangi was an 18-year old girl in the Southern Province of Sindh, Pakistan, who was killed in an extremely inhumane manner by the elders of her tribe. Her mother reported that she was ‘first thrown before hungry dogs, and when she was mauled by them and in the jaws of death, she was riddled with bullets’ (Dawn 2008). This was the punishment ordered for her by the local ‘jirga,’ because she was declared a ‘kari’, the local term for a female adulterer. However, police investigation shows that there was no proof of an extramarital affair and Tasleem’s murder was merely a by-product of a family dispute over a piece of land. Regardless of the actual reason for her murder, Tasleem’s murder points to a larger issue at hand; extreme nature of violence against women in the strictly patriarchal society of Pakistan.
Another story from the same country: Tehimna, a seventeen-year girl was married off to a businessman four times her age (BBC). Despite economic prosperity and the lack of any reason, Tehmina’s husband regularly beat her. The beatings were limited to slaps, punches and kicks. But one day when the rest of the family was out, he went much further. He tied her to the bed, announced thrice that he was divorcing her. Then he grabbed a knife, chopped off Tehmina’s nose and all her hair.
One can only try to imagine Tasleem or Tehmina’s plight. By using bits and pieces from reports, one can only try to recreate the imagery of the actual event. However, it is almost impossible for words to justify the extremity of the inhumane treatment that befalls these women and thousands more like them. In a patriarchal society such as Pakistan, such cases are not rare. All one has to do to see how many women become victims of domestic, sexual or mental violence in a day is to pick up the daily newspaper and one would be overwhelmed by the high number of stories that color the pages. Hundreds of women are murdered, raped and assaulted each day. Although there is an authentic legal framework which promises that “all citizens are equal before law” (Constitution of Pakistan 1973, Article 25) many provisions of the same system prove to be unfair to women. However, it must be noted that it is essentially the deeply flawed legal system and the mindset behind it that forms the reason for such extreme acts of violence.
Women are subjected to discrimination and subjugation in the Pakistani community. Although the severity of this discrimination varies from area to area depending on financial, ethnic, rural/urban, social and educational background, it is prevalent across all four provinces of Pakistan and in the tribal regions on the border of Afghanistan. Women live in a world structured around strict customs that force them into subjugation and consternation. In a society in which the legal system is entangled in religious values, women not only suffer violence but the offenders are treated with impunity. The law, which guarantees to not allow “any discrimination on the basis of gender only” (Constitution of Pakistan 1973, Article 25) , and indeed goes a step further by promising “to provide additional provisions for the protection of women” (Constitution of Pakistan 1973, Article 26) often backfires and is used to force women to even deeper tyranny...."
(Email me if you are interested in reading more)