When will this society stop victimising women?

Published: June 4, 2014

Vigilante justice in Pakistan, especially when it comes to issues pertaining to so-called religious matters, is unreasonably high. PHOTO: AFP

The recent incident of ‘honour killing’ has raised much criticism from activist groups both at home and abroad. The fact that this incident took place right outside the court of law (ironically the institution that promises to legally protect us all) and that too in front of an unwavering audience; truly shatters ones faith in humanity. What kills its last tether though is the very alert and apt police force present during this incident who refused to budge to the aid of this poor woman.

Such a disgraceful act demonstrated by our own police force should be severely punished by the court or any apex of the state. Not only should they be stripped off their uniforms but they should also serve time in prison for abetting such a horrendous crime. If anything, this should act as a precedent for future inert cops if not punish the already degenerate moral conscious of these men. But what precedent can a country like Pakistan set to circumscribe such future acts of violence and vigilantism?

This question is tricky to answer in a country like Pakistan, where fanaticism and male chauvinism are deeply embedded in the mind-set of the people. One cannot possibly identify the future perpetrators of such acts of violence, simply because it can be anyone. Whether it is your family brutally stoning you to death for choosing your loved one or your bodyguard shooting you in broad daylight for actively contesting against blasphemy laws, we are not safe from our own let alone strangers. Vigilante justice in Pakistan, especially when it comes to issues pertaining to so-called religious matters, is unreasonably high.

One can really argue if any of these acts of violence are even perceived as Islamic or not. Though Islam asks for stoning to death for committing unlawful sex after marriage, but it does so with the caveat that four male witnesses are to be present to witness the actual act of the intercourse itself to bear testimony of adultery. This as we all know is an impossible task to accomplish. This makes many think that maybe such punishments were introduced in Islam just as a severe admonishment and not to be practically implemented in the first place at all. These punishments are there to act as a deterrent and more as a pre-emptive measure in lieu of actually practicing honour killing itself.

The only practical way for this punishment to be performed is through the confession of the guilty itself. Even if so Islam strongly recommends that the adulterers keep this matter to themselves and repent and ask for God’s forgiveness. In either way, not only has honour killing been made practically impossible to demonstrate in Islam (by way of bringing forth four male witnesses) but it has also considered it as a last resort, with repent being the best possible option.

As a woman, a follower of Islam and a Pakistani, my characteristics in all three aspects could not have been more severely jeopardised in the light of this recent event. And as a human, this event served was a fatal blow to all those who uphold rights of human life as sacred. But foremost as a Pakistani, I am disturbed that something as brutal as this happened in my own city. The saddest part is that this issue will soon pass as well. Tomorrow, yet again, we will hear of another event in which another female was brutally raped or murdered in broad daylight with people passing by.

When will this end?

When will this society stop victimising women?

And most importantly, when will we start seeing that Islam supports the weak and the vulnerable, it does not oppress them as our society does. The answer is probably never. Not in the near future at least.

In a country where religious factions happen to be stronger and greatly outnumber the left wing and the liberals, change is an ever slow excruciating process. Not until this part of the world sees another Kemal Ataturk or Zulfikar Ali Bhutto rise to its aid. Till then, people will continue to misrepresent our religion and taint it further in the international media. And till then, bloggers like myself, with continue to write laments and obituaries for all those tortured by our misogynist culture.

Alishae Khar

Alishae Khar

A student of Mphil in Economics from Lahore School of Economics and is currently working on her thesis on Benazir Income Support Program. She is also working as a co-coordinator for student affairs on campus.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • The Shaikh

    So who killed the lady? Was it her new lover-husband or her father?Recommend

  • Shah (Berlin)

    Excuse me how dare you talk like tht. For you Ataturk can be a BIG LEADER for for many he might be nothing..this is known as relative thinking …just dont assume tht every body in the world who thinks different than you is an enemy…(Although Atatruk for me personally doesnt come in good or bad book)……!!!!!!!!!
    Secondly the Author tried to explain Islamic prospective and condemned Stoning or Honour killing. To take the confusion from the society away…. If you are a Atheist or a non believer than this might not be a justification for you but DEAR friend in Pakistan more than 90% are muslims and confused muslims. You need to address them these topics according to their thinking..so that the people understand Islam better and reframe from such heinous acts…!!!Recommend

  • Parvez

    The ambiguity in our legal system and more so the sheer cowardice of those with the power to do what is right, but do not. Our law makers who lack the knowledge and the will to do what is right…………all these factors including society’s apathy towards violence, combine to give us what we see happening today.
    In this scenario the religious right are simply predators misusing religion for their ulterior motive of gaining power…….their lack of clearly condemning such atrocities is telling.Recommend

  • http://nazarbaaz.blogspot.com/ 2#

    First thing first: Honor killing is not anyhow par of Islamic teaching so pulling religion here is not advisable. . Second: It is the personal act of people who do this and again that is only because of their family frustration and social pressure. where does the religion fit in? Third, asking for girl’s concent is a normal practice in Islam, if someone doesnt practice that, how does it make the religion to be answerable, I understand you did a good job but its not about religious fanatics who do this, but more about non religious fanatics. Last, you can not only see frustration in issues like this, but everywhere so this becomes only one. Please note, the story you wrote about is still developing but may be you submitted the article 2 days ago. Check. Thanks.Recommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/khar.alishae alishae khar

    The Islamic view on honour killing is presented here, not to justify my claim against honour killing itself, but to provide a more holistic picture of the issue by condemning this act on both (Islamic and humanitarian) grounds.

    As for the second comment: Bhutto was the only progressive leader (both in reform and ideology) that Pakistan has ever had. It was after Bhutto’s demise that women and minority groups were exposed to victimization once Zia Ul Haq introduced the Hudood and Blasphemy laws into Pakistan’s constitution.

    Since then the condition of women and other vulnerable groups has only deteriorated. Whereas all of Bhutto’s actions can be perceived as secular and socialist in nature. This article recognizes the importance of leaders such as Ataturk and Bhutto in steering the country towards more a secular, modern and democratic nation-state; but does not necessarily draw a comparison between them.Recommend

  • tomakewithlight

    “Not until this part of the world sees another Kemal Ataturk or Zulfikar Ali Bhutto rise to its aid.”

    The same ZAB who declared Ahmedis as non-Musims yes? And in doing so, set the precedent.Recommend

  • Leila Rage

    Dear author,

    Your blog illustrates exactly what’s makes Pakistan a women-victimising society—- Ignorance. You state that apparently stoning is the “Islamic” punishment for adultery, yet the concept of stoning was NOT encouraged (or practiced by the Prophet (PBUH)) by Islam. Stoning is a pre-Islamic barbaric custom of the most abhorrent kind of execution.
    The problem is people in Pakistan have a complete ignorance of the concepts of compassion, mercy and (real) justice.
    Their whole concept of God is based solely on the idea of an angry and wrathful God. They fail to ever see His Mercy & His Compassion (which are His most prominent attributes), and thus they view all their vile and petty behaviour as somehow sanctioned by God.Recommend

  • Dec16

    So u justifying the law of 4 witnesses in the same breath you were criticising the blasphemy law? You are contradicting yourself lady and being hypocrite. You could have done better by just condemning the murder of poor woman. If you really want to see women getting freedom from this stoning culture then in no way you could be supporting 4 witnesses crap, either through religion or culture. Recommend

  • Guest

    Too many horrible things happening to women :(Recommend

  • Ali

    The ones to blame for atrocities against women are women themselves. The men that commit these crimes do not grow on trees. These men are raised by mothers (women). Are women teaching their sons to treat women better? I have seen the way male children are raised and how female children are raised by the women of our society. There is a clear distinction in the upbringing and that is when the seeds of this distinction and superiority complex are sown in the men. As they grow, the same distinction and superiority complex grows with them. How many times have we heard the following statements:
    “Jao bhai ko pani la ke dou”
    “Jao bhai ke kapre istree kar dou”
    “Jao bhai ke jotay polish kar dou”
    “Jao bhai ko khana nikal ke dou”
    I am not pointing the finger at others, I have seen this happening in my own family and relatives and this is a common practice. I have seen it happening in dramas and this culture and mind set that women are created to work for men stems from. We are looking at the problem all wrong. We need the Mothers of our society to instill a better comprehension of how a man needs to respect a woman and end this gender based treatment among your own children.Recommend

  • MrRollsRoyce

    Sorry, you can’t continue to believe in Islamic teachings while believing that it protects women and gives them dignity and equality. That’s nonsense and deep inside your heart you know it. Islam states women are deficient in religion, less than men, testimony is worth half that of a man, inheritance is half, no right to marry of own will (need a guardian), no right to move about freely, has to provide sexual favors to husband without complaint (on penalty of being beaten, all kosher in Islam), have no say if their husband wants to marry other women, no rights as a rape victim unless 4 pious MALE witnesses were present, and to top it all, in the afterlife they don’t get anything other than their husband, while that same husband will have many houris. And that is of course if she does make it to heaven, as per the hadees tradition most of the residents of hell are women!

    Seriously, how long will our educated people continue to carry the enormous cognitive dissonance of believing in human rights, decency, and plain common sense?

    I mean, come on, there is NO way for a rape victim to get justice in Islam, and in fact ends up punished severely for the “crime” of being raped. Also, minor preteen girls getting married to old men, hellooo??Recommend

  • aaaaa

    Jinnah was the only progressive leader Pakistan has ever had. Every single move Bhutto made was to perpetuate his own hold on power. What’s progressive about declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslims? Bhutto cast the first stone. He had no reason to appease the right, but he did so anyway. He’s the reason we’re here today. It was Ahmadis in 1974, its Christians and Hindus today, not to mention shias and sunnis.
    A progressive leader would never have outlawed gambling or drinking either. Zia put the whole thing on steroids, but the appeasement of the right began with Bhutto. Who got us a decade of Zia by the way? Who elevated his monkey general to the top?Recommend

  • Illuminati2014

    The audacity with which the author is trying to justify death by stoning leaves me aghast…If education has created such deluded women, they will remain the condemned ones..
    And you can keep on pretending and justifying– its going to get worse

  • Raza Rashid

    more unfortunate thing is that her father who viciously killed her daughter, doesn’t feel remorse for what he did.perhaps for him that was the only way to retrieve his honour. wonder why people blame the individuals .even if this man is hanged at the same spot where he killed her daughter, wont bring abt a change.Recommend

  • Illuminati2014

    Till Pakistan breaks apart , it will not be possible for pakistanis to question the construct that created it.Recommend

  • Adpran

    The correct rule in Islam is, if someone accuse a woman commit adultery, he/she should be supported by 4 witnesses who saw it. The rule that a rape victim should be supported by 4 witnesses is the wrong rule that criticized by many Muslim scholars outside Pakistan.Recommend

  • abubakar

    “ironically the institution that promises to legally protect us all”
    Firstly our legal institutions are a joke and you know it, you can’t expect anything from them, it wluld be stupid of anyone to expect anything from them.

    Secondly Islam is in an indirect way a trigger to all these honour kilongs. Why do people like you always try to water down Islam to make it appear more conforming to the modern World? Recommend

  • Sarah Uzair

    it ll NEVER stopRecommend

  • Moiz Omar

    “We are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live.” – Jinnah.

    “No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men.” -Jinnah.

    I wish this nation would pay heed to these quotes by our founding father.Recommend

  • Moiz Omar

    While I detest adultery personally I do not think it should be a criminal act. That should be left to the spouses to decide themselves. And even if it was.. Where are you going to get four male witnesses for it? Do you expect the participants to allow four people to watch them while they do it? That is so dumb.Recommend