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Violence Against Women Act: Pakistan

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By Megha Sharma

Mohammed Hanif, a Pakistani author and journalist, has recently discussed the law passed to preserve women’s rights. The law, preventing violence against women, has been authorized and declares a total dismissal of domestic abuse against women. Further, the law will institute legal proceedings on the culprit and even ask to wear a GPS-monitored bracelet. The offender will also be prohibited to buy guns or other harmful weapons. They focus on initiating a women’s hotline to report such an act immediately. It comes across as another step towards women empowerment.

shariya, the religious text of Muslims
shariya, the religious text of Muslims

However, this isn’t a consensual act as a major population stands in opposition of it. From religious groups to the old men, all are suggestive of a unanimous denial of this law as the patriarchal society has long observed the men in the house as power structures. Women have seen a longish submission to all these superstructures and have undergone not only mental but a physical passivity too. The religious text shariah is said to observe the act of domestic violence as acceptable in the name of masculine power.

Where on one hand there is a wide open space for women, full of opportunities, on the other one sees this refutation of exercising their rights. The repercussions of such a law are street protest and a story of it being against the culture.

a picture of Malala
a picture of Malala

The world has seen how the Muslim Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, fought against the terrorists and showed the cosmos the power of a young girl. She became a representative of many other females who wanted to conquer the world but were hopeless.

Women today, are not only feminists, but they assert their individuality. From coming out of working on high posts with meagre wages, they have now understood how they can’t be engendered. A UN survey also suggested how women can work 4 times more than men.

Hanif also argues how there are several feminist men as well. They let their sisters go out, they respect their wives and believe in an egalitarian society. However, it seems these men are the most hurt with the GPS monitoring as hanif reports them saying: “See, I have never stopped my sister from going to school, never given my girlfriend a black eye. That makes me a feminist, right? But we must protect our families. You don’t want a family-loving feminist man going around with a GPS tracker, do you?”

Women who today are not afraid of making them known to the world, who respect the culture but want to transcend the social boundaries, are too scared of what happens to them in their private sphere. It is thus a major drawback of this law that it isn’t supported by its citizens.

(Megha is a student at the University of Delhi. She is pursuing her masters in English and has done her studies in German Language.) GMAIL- loveme2010.ms@gmail.com

follow me @ https://twitter.com/meghash06510344

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  • Archita aggarwal

    A good start….we are with you.

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Afghan Orchestra Flourishes Despite Social Issues

Afghanistan and Pakistan have experienced years of terrorist attacks, including massive casualties on both sides of their long shared border.

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Afghanistan
Negin Khpolwak, leader of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, practices on a piano at Afghanistan's National Institute of Music, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

The consequences of Afghanistan’s increasingly deadly war are weighing heaviest on the nation’s civilians, with women bearing the brunt of the violence. The Taliban banned music and girls education, and restricted outdoor activities of women when the group was controlling most of Afghanistan.

But violence and social pressures have not deterred members of the country’s nascent orchestra of mostly young girls from using music to “heal wounds” and promote women’s rights in the strictly conservative Muslim society.

The ensemble, known as Zohra, was founded in 2014 as part of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) in Kabul, where suicide bombings lately have become routine.

Hope and music

Students and trainers are not losing hope and regularly come to the city’s only institute to rehearse and learn new lessons, says Ahmed Naser Sarmast, the director of ANIM and the founder of the orchestra. Zohra is the name of a music goddess in Persian literature, he explained.

The musicologist spoke to VOA while visiting neighboring Pakistan earlier this month with the young ensemble to perform in Islamabad as part of celebrations marking the 99th anniversary of Afghanistan’s Independence Day. Kabul’s embassy in Islamabad organized and arranged for the orchestra’s first visit to Pakistan.

Despite the many challenges in Afghanistan, Sarmast said, student enrollment has consistently grown and more parents are bringing their children to the institute to study music. Around 300 students are studying not only music at the institute but other subjects, including the Quran, he said.

Afghanistan
Members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, attend a rehearsal at Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, in Kabul. VOA

Advances for women

Negin Khpolwak, the orchestra’s first woman conductor, says Afghanistan has made significant advances in terms of promoting women’s rights in the past 17 years. She says there is a need to sustain the momentum irrespective of rising violence.

“We need to stand up to protect those gains and we need to open the doors for other Afghan girls,” Khpolwak said when asked whether deadly attacks around the country are reversing the gains women have made.

But violence alone is not the only challenge for women and girls, especially those who want to study music, she said.

“When you are going in the street with your instrument to the school and they are saying bad words to you and if you are giving a concert in public they are telling the bad words to you. But we are not caring about it,” Khpolwak said.

Afghanistan
Ahmad Naser Sarmast, head of Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, speaks to members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

Ethnic groups help each other

Sarmast says that girls and boys in the orchestra come from different Afghan ethnic groups and they help each other when needed.

“It’s hope for the future,” he said.

Ethnic rivalries have been a hallmark of hostilities in Afghanistan and continue to pose a challenge to efforts promoting peace and stability.

“I strongly believe without arts and culture there cannot be security and we are using the soft power of music to make a small contribution to bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan and at the same time using this beautiful, if I can call it a beautiful weapon, to transform our community,” the director said.

Some of the members of the Afghan orchestra were born and brought up in refugee camps in Pakistan, which still hosts around 3 million registered and unregistered Afghan families displaced by years of war, poverty, persecution and drought.

Afghanistan
Members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, bring instruments to a class before a rehearsal at Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

“We are using the healing power of music to look after the wounds of the Afghan people as well as the Pakistani people. We are here with the message of peace, brotherhood and freedom,” Sarmast said.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have experienced years of terrorist attacks, including massive casualties on both sides of their long shared border. Bilateral relations are marred by mistrust and suspicion.

Also Read: OrchKids- Bringing Jot to Underprivileged Kids Through Music

The countries blame each other for supporting terrorist attacks. Afghans allege that sanctuaries in Pakistan have enabled Taliban insurgents to sustain and expand their violent acts inside Afghanistan. Pakistan rejects the charges.

The Islamist insurgency controls or is attempting to control nearly half of Afghanistan. (VOA)