Did you know (because I didn’t) that Pakistan is the third most dangerous country in the world for Women? It slips into it’s bronze medal position just behind Afghanistan and the Congo.
I should start off by saying that I feel very safe here, but I am also an exception. I’m a foreign woman and I look like a foreigner, there is very little ambiguity there. And while I don’t want to appeal to a double-standard, foreign woman are ‘untouchable’ to a point because the repercussions of foreign law would level many a men here. But Pakistani woman? The law is not on their side, nor is it in their court or even on the field.
A woman in Pakistan needs (or needed past tense, depending on who you talk to and what you read) 4 eye witnesses to legally prove that she was sexually assaulted or raped. If she can’t produce these eye-witnesses then she leaves herself vulnerably open to adultery charges. Marital rape and domestic violence not included because these ‘private’ matters aren’t explicitly prohibited by Pakistani domestic law. The very idea that any woman would have 4 eye witnesses to sexual harassment is ludicrous and leads to a silencing and shaming of woman. If you want to read a well-written article about a woman whose mother was not so into the silence and shaming bit here.
I should start off by saying that I know very little about this topic (then why try to write about it you may ask? I suppose to muddle out some decent thinking but I’ll get back to you on how ‘decent’ it really ends up being). I probably know more than the average Westerner simply based on the couple books I’ve read, conversations I’ve had and observations I’ve made since being in Pakistan. But my thinking is still just that, my thinking. Now to come full circle, I think that men and woman develop unhealthy relationships that are based on male dominance and control because the two sexes live in isolation of each other. Men and women have very difference spheres and roles, they don’t grow up interacting with each other, and they are never taught how to build and develop positive relationships (although we could also argue here that mass media and Western culture isn’t exactly the epitome of developing ‘positive relationships’ either. We have a long way to go here people!). When we throw in elements of religious extremism we’re left with some healthy relationships, but also far too many incidences of marital rape, sexual harassment, acid throwing and honor killings.
In between the bombings and general political discontent of the newspapers, violence against women is throwing elbows for some claim to public acknowledgement, but it seems that it’s not quite loud enough, yet. I’ll step off my soapbox in a minute, but before I descend from my (lofty height!) I kindly request that you watch the video below, if you haven’t seen it already. I showed it to my students the other day and while it hit home with my 4 female students, the 16 boys were largely uninterested. The male to female ratio of my class alone gives weight and validity to the importance of educating girls and turning this whole violence against women thing up.side.down. Enjoy.