Price of Morality?: Dawn Editorial

Price of morality?
Editorial, Dawn, August 28, 2008

AN enemy who speaks an altogether different language with unforgiving conviction is at best a dark dead-end. A research by the Asian Human Rights Commission clearly states that there has been negligible change in the incidents of violence against women after the Women Protection Bill 2006 came into force. A local NGO’s research supports this claim with astounding figures — 1317 women endured violence in 2007, including over 210 victims of honour killing. Take recent shockers, such as the woman in Sukkur who was axed to death by her cousin over ‘suspicions’ of illicit relations and another victim of domestic violence in Ranjhapur village who sought asylum at Thull police station. These came soon after two bullet-riddled bodies of women were discovered in Gulli Garhi village with a note that declared them of ‘loose character’. It also stated that the victims had been killed for defying warnings by the Jaish-i-Islami. With the treacherous recesses of the NWFP having been turned into a minefield of extremism and the rural areas nursing their gender prejudices it is not strange that violence against women is on the rise. Moreover, the parameters of a ‘loose character’ or ‘illicit relations’ remain undefined and anything is enough to trigger the wrath of the custodians of morality. The question is how long will regressive elements enforce a parallel ‘legal’ system that challenges the writ of the state and perpetrates outright murders in the name of virtue?

Despite the fact that women in Fata continue to cry foul, citing the reion's 'special status' as the root of these ‘murders’, Frontier Crime Regulation persists and jirgas have yet to be replaced by courts of law. Regrettably, the ‘edicts’ ordained by jirgas and militants remain loaded against women and are in open violation of the laws of the land. Perhaps, aside from the establishment of a judicial system, far-flung areas are in dire need of empowered, sensitised women’s police stations. As experts have pointed out in the past, the National Commission on the Status of Women must also become more independent, aggressive and, above all, relevant in such areas. Lastly, the security of our womenfolk is a national investment and education and employment are surefire tools to thwart patriarchy and brutality.

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