Whither woman power?
IT may be some time before the three brutalised women of Balochistan are cold in their graves and the uproar dies out. But neither the despicable brutality nor the resultant outrage, seems to have delivered the message of tolerance and sensitivity. This week in Islamabad, yet another woman’s face was doused in acid by a man, who was also her teacher, after she turned down his proposal of marriage. Small wonder then, that the results of a research conducted by the Asian Human Rights Commission cannot be refuted. It clearly states that there has been negligible change in the incidents of violence against women after the Women Protection Act 2006 came into force. This is further supported by a report issued by a local NGO which has brought staggering figures of violence against women to light – as many as 1,321 were recorded in the first quarter of 2008 with 44 in Islamabad. Another document reveals nearly 328 cases in Sindh alone. Perhaps the fault lies in isolating and highlighting a particular atrocity as opposed to pursuing a consistent collective movement – the only way to achieve the ultimate goal of a sensitised environment.
Experts and activists have long insisted that the National Commission on the Status of Women be made more independent and relevant in both urban and rural areas, and undeniably this has to be one of the most urgent and foremost priorities of the elected government. In the past, the Ministry of Women Development and an NGO had joined forces to support survivors of violence and facilitate their reinstatement in society with a joint venture that focussed on capacity-building for state-run women centres. It is hoped that the government will allow similar endeavours to flourish and not thwart them as residues of an old regime. After all, survivors of brutalities are often the most neglected aspect of a crime and their rehabilitation must be held supreme.
Second, before these atrocities begin to question the validity of the Women Protection Act, lawmakers need to ensure its large-scale implementation with stringent penalties for the perpetrators. It is also imperative that families are encouraged to register complaints and this is only possible if women police stations are operative and police stations in general are sensitised towards the treatment of women with an understanding of the excesses carried out against them.