Published On: Tue, May 17th, 2016

There is nothing heroic in committing a crime, and no honour in killing

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There was a lot of noise and hoopla following the Women’s Rights Bill that was passed a few months back. There was and still is a clear division among people over the nature of the bill, with most of the opposition coming from Religious Parties and figures who vowed to take the streets if the bill was not amended.
Months later we have seen a number of cases of honour killings and horrific treatment of women. And sadly none of those that opposed the bill have come out in protest against those shameful acts. We had a 19 year old in Karachi slash his sister to death because he saw her talking to a boy at the gate of their house. It was chilling to see that the young man showed no remorse for his actions, and believed it was the ‘honourable’ thing to do.
A few days later in a village near Abbotabad, a young girl was abducted by a large group of men and was burnt alive in a car, a decision taken by the Jirga (Tribal Council). Her only crime – she knew that her friend had married a man of her own choice and had eloped with him. It is heartbreaking to see the same thing happening to women time and time again, and yet we have individuals objecting to the Women’s Rights Bill. It is mindboggling to understand how and why people would not support the protection of women, especially after what we have seen in recent days.
Recent tragedies only reinforce the belief that stronger laws are needed to protect all women belonging to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. We cannot allow culprits to get away with these heinous crimes because it will only encourage others to do the same. There is a mindset within our society, a twisted idea that women are dispensable, and that their lives are valueless. Women are not private property, owned by the men in their lives. And it is sad because the Quran clearly states the importance of women in society and how they are the backbone.
If something is not done to try and stop these heinous crimes against women, society in Pakistan will only be pushed back to the times of the Dark Age. No society can truly progress if its women are mistreated. Women are just as important as men and have a vital role to play in the prosperity of any society. What we have seen recently is completely unacceptable and must be strongly condemned by all. Of course not every man in Pakistan holds such abhorrent views regarding women. But there is a problem and we do have to accept it. If there was not a problem, we would not be facing similar tragedies time and time again.
Nawaz Sharif’s government took the initiative with the Women’s Protection Bill, but this is not enough. Much more needs to be done, and the government needs to be seen as being proactive. First of all, the government should not back down due to external pressure, and needs stand its ground when it comes to implementing the Women’s Protection Bill. But the government should engage with credible and progressive Religious Scholars. The government should also work closely with credible NGOs. (Non Governmental Organisations) that have actively worked towards the betterment of women in Pakistani society.
Pakistan has always found itself at the crossroads when it comes to choosing a progressive society. Unfortunately progression has often been seen as a way of aping the West, a way of life that cannot work with our culture. But of course that is not true. There is nothing uncultured or Un-Islamic about being progressive. On the contrary, Islam has seen strong willed and progressive women such as Hazrat Aisha, who was at the forefront in the battlefields. And if we take Pakistan’s history, we have had strong and defiant leaders such the late Benazir Bhutto. These were also women, belonging to a religion that gave them their rights.
We should not confuse religion with manmade customs. We create these traditions and then make them the ‘norm.’ But there is nothing normal in the mistreatment of women. It is warped mentality. And the thing about so- called customs and traditions is that it can be broken, can be changed. We need to change how some men perceive the women in their homes and in society at large. It is not easy, it is a challenge. But it has to be done. The law should prevail. Courts need to come down hard on those that think it is their moral duty and obligation to take someone’s life because of so-called honour. They should not be shown mercy, only then will there be a fear of the law. That is a start. And such people should be named and shamed because they are not heroes. There is nothing heroic in committing a crime. And there is no honour in killing.

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