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Women’s security in Pakistan: A necessity or a privilege?

Humna Azeem (Legislative Intern, SSDO) Living in the 21st century, who would have thought that things would be like this? Security of the women in today’s world is a necessity or a privilege? We wanted to have flying cars in 2021 but all we are asking for is security. Pakistani women are constantly fighting for their rights, a desperate need to feel secure in this society. In every field of women’s life, they are constantly trying to put up with the hurdles in their way. Several cases show that why women are putting up a fight with society and its norms. Every day, women are subjected to different kinds of torture, be it domestic violence, workplace harassment, or honor killing. Pakistan is ranked by the Global Gender Gap index 2018 as the sixth most dangerous country in the world for women. A series of recent events in which seconds that women are in danger. On the 15th of July, Qurat-ul-Ain, a mother of four children was brutally tortured and killed by her husband, in Hyderabad Sindh. Social media was already trending with the hashtags demanding justice for the victims. Another brutal murder was reported the very next day, shaking the whole nation. It was a 27-year-old named Noor Mukhadam. In the period of the Covid-19 pandemic, data and reports from those on the front lines have revealed that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence has intensified. Pakistani women are facing problems at their workplaces. There is an act for the protection of women which is named The Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2010 (PAHWWA) but if we closely look at the reality of this act we get to know that this is merely a piece of paper. “When the PAHWWA is examined as a whole, it does not live up to expectation as titled and preamble of the act suggests,” Justice Mushir Alam wrote in a judgment on a petition moved by a former employee of the state-run Pakistan Television (PTV). In workplaces, women were mostly the victim of harassment. Just like the case of Nadia Naz who was working as a resource person on PTV. But the three-judge SC bench that heard the case of Nadia Naz regarding harassment at the workplace observed that the petitioner failed to establish the case of sexual harassment within the contemplation of the Act. There are an estimated 1,000 honor killings each year in Pakistan, according to a 2019 report by Human Rights Watch. But there are no official statistics around them, as they often go unreported or are logged as a suicide or natural death by family members. In October 2016, Pakistan passed a bill that fixed a loophole that allowed killers to escape prosecution if pardoned by the victim's family. Previously, family members who were complicit in the crime could also forgive those who had committed it. That new legislation came three months after Qandeel Baloch, a social media star who was killed by her brother in Punjab province for dishonoring the family. A police report revealed that 126 people were involved in honor killings in Sindh between January 2019 to 2020. The number of cases of honor killings from 2011 to 2020 is mentioned in the link below. The state requires a stronger and powerful network to make sure that the women’s security is being observed. Pakistan ranked 153rd out of 156 nations on the Global Gender Gap 2021 index by the World Economic Forum. In the South Asian region, it ranks seventh among the eight countries with Afghanistan ranking the lowest. The report commented that “progress has stagnated” thus increasing the estimated time to close the gender gap to 136.5 years. On an average, Pakistan women just receive five years of schooling and their financial inclusion stands at only three percent. Only 24 percent women in the country have access to employment, and their share in parliament seats is 20 percent. Discriminatory norms against women are estimated at a staggering 73 percent while son bias (male to female birth ratio) stands at 1.09. It is estimated that 27 percent women in Pakistan suffer lifetime intimate partner violence or domestic violence and their perception of community safety stands at 51 percent. All this statically drawn data tells us that how badly we are going towards downfall. As a State duty, it is very important to recognize the crimes against the women of the society and ensure due punishment for the criminals. So that the women and feel secure and can work for the prosperity of the country. The elected representatives shall pass legislation that protects women's rights. Pakistan is a country that was made on the basis of Islam. Islam has always emphasized respecting women. Even before human rights, women were given rights in Islam but as a nation, we are failing to implement them. The security of the women was a privilege given by Islam and our Quaid but now it is a necessity and we need to protect our women. Because they are a key part of our society.