S. Asian women deserve more respect

By : Muhammad Waqas

They are our mothers, daughters and sisters. As the bearer and nurturer of our future generations, we are obligated to protect them from all sources of danger. Yet, South Asia seems to be failing miserably in giving its women a respectable status in the society. Women here are demeaned based on their perceived weaknesses. They remain vilified and targeted in the garb of illogical traditions and twisted religious teachings. Recent incidents from both India and Pakistan call for immediate attention to the status of women in South Asia and how their misery can be alleviated.

In a shocking case that grabbed global headlines, a pregnant Pakistani woman was stoned to death in the name of protecting family’s honor. Her crime was to go against family wishes and marry a man of her own free will. More pertinently, the killing took place at a public place outside the Lahore High Court. As everyone just stood and watched, another woman became a mere statistic to the gruesome tradition of honor killing in Pakistan. Such killings are common in the mostly rural and conservative regions of Pakistan, where local customs often override Islamic teachings.

At the same time, India has a shameful record on treatment of women as well. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, reported cases of rape have increased by ten times in the last 40 years. While Indian women were still grappling with fear and insecurity in the aftermath of widely publicized 2012 Delhi gang rape case, another horrifying incident has surfaced in Uttar Pradesh. Two lower caste girls were brutally raped, killed and left hanging from a mango tree in a poor village. The latest incident of violence against women can be attributed to India’s pervasive caste system and deeply-rooted male hegemony. The response from law enforcers and politicians has been indifferent as usual, with a close aide of newly elected Modi describing such sexual violence as a social crime, but “sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong.”

The mistreatment of women in South Asia is largely a result of the region’s rigid, patriarchal structure of society. As Pakistan and India continue to battle rising tide of unemployment and poverty, women may have to endure aggression and resistance from frustrated men struggling to cope up with their financial and social situation. Religious teachings and local cultural traditions play an important role in shaping the South Asian societies. These beliefs have often been challenged by a liberated media and growing participation of women in different walks of life. Women emancipation is still looked down with disdain in these societies, often culminating in violence against them as a way to reassert male dominance. The weak political and judicial system which lets go of the criminals only encourages a vicious cycle of violence against women.

A reversal in fortune requires a complete overhaul of the region’s social, education and legal system. The system should promote equal rights and treatment for women since the very early stages of childhood so that participation of women may become more acceptable for all in later years. While it may not be easy to sideline local customs that have lingered on for several decades, there is a dire need to rethink their morality in light of modern times and religious teachings.



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