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March 19, 2016 - Comments Off on “Why is security for women a threat to many?”

“Why is security for women a threat to many?”

Long before activists and organizations could begin scrutinizing Punjab’s Women’s Protection Act, they found themselves instead having to fight for its very right to exist.

The law, which essentially helps protect women from abuse in domestic scenarios, has been collectively spoken against by almost all the religious parties that are part of our social fabric. Numbering at a staggering 35, the parties - the leadership for which is unsurprisingly and predominantly made up of men - have termed the legislation un-Islamic and said that it would result in the collapse of the family system in Pakistan.

Despite the fact that the law is only provincial in stature, it has resulted in a backlash that has extended itself to the entire country. At present, the chaos just may extend itself to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa bill which is currently being worked on.

The religious groups, in a joint statement said that the law would make matters worse for women instead of helping them:

“This controversial law to protect women was put into operation to accomplish the West’s agenda to destroy the family system in Pakistan,” it read.

The main question that we must ask is how a law that is meant to help women remain safe from domestic, psychological and sexual violence will result in the collapse of the family system in the country. The opponents of the Act, which consist of not just the religious parties but also regular people, fail to mention how allowing a woman space for safety in her own home can lead to the destruction of her family.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islami leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman himself has attacked the law and said that it would make men insecure and turn Pakistan into a western colony again. This begs the question: is a Pakistani man only as secure in his marriage, as his chappal on his wife’s face? Can he not build a relationship through love and respect? What many are effectively doing is opposing the rights that are being allotted to women to secure their own bodies against harm that comes from the people closest to them. By saying that the law will lead to the collapse of the family structure in Pakistan, what the religious right is really saying is that a family cannot exist unless a man has the right to abuse his wife in numerous ways.

And what the religious right is at present engaging in nothing short of extortion. The “give us what we want or we revolt” tactic is akin to blackmail. The reason for this is simple: the law was not imposed on the people of Punjab, it was passed through due democratic process. It cannot and should not be undone over the whims of a few. With this we also need to revisit our own mentality as a nation. Why is it that anytime violence is committed against women there is deafening silence, but when efforts are made for the betterment of women there is great outcry. The assertion that all pro-women efforts are western agendas is the very reason that Pakistan is seen as a backward country. The very religion that is being used to call the Violence Against Women Act un-Islamic has several provisions that require the protection and care of women - do we now see those too as western?

We must return the right of safety and security to women. They deserve to have control over their lives and exist without fear. They too deserve to feel free and avoid both physical and mental abuse.

What threatens the Pakistani family structure is not a tool for protection but the very mindset that is opposing it. Instead of encouraging the Act and investing efforts into stronger marriages that are based on love and respect, the religious right is saying that tactics of fear and intimidation are wonderful substitutes.

And that is not something any of us should stand for.
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Published by: Digital Rights Foundation in Blog

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