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Stand Up, Speak Out

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Farheen Ali Khan |

“It’s summer. You have three months, you should take cooking classes,” my uncle uttered to me, while telling my brother to take up an internship in one of the few multinational in Pakistan. “It will be good for your career, it’ll look good” he stated.

The above encounter does not even begin to explain the embedded and engraved sexism in our society. It falls short of almost all of the other incidents I have encountered – From fathers telling their daughters to lose weight because women are supposed to come off as ‘fragile’ to brothers telling their sisters to be happy with what they have instead of demanding more rights, because most women don’t get to pursue a secondary education – it baffles me how our society can be so ignorant towards the benefits of empowering women.

This is not an article about feminism, but an attempt to reach out about what is inherently wrong in our society; the suppression of the ‘other’ sex. This is shown in small, every day gestures that we consider the norm. From swear words to promises, the intensity of one’s words depend on the inclusivity of one’s mother, sister, wife etc. – This begs the question; why are women used as a sign of ‘izzat’?

The words taught to almost every middle-class household. Yet, here we stand, with such injustice and un-Islamic practices being exercised in our country with no one to stand up for the change that is so desperately needed. It’s a matter of basic human rights.

The idea of ‘rights’ seems to belong to only one sex, especially in rural areas of this country. From rape cases to sexual abuse and domestic violence – why are these such taboo topics? Why are women not voicing their concern? After talking to many women from different backgrounds, I realized it was a matter of ‘izzat’ for the middle and elite class – because somehow it will look bad on the women’s character, irrelevant if she was the victim – and a matter of helplessness for the poor of the county.

The attempt to ban the movie ‘Verna’ was proof of such matters as the story is built around a young girl, who was raped, after which her family told her to ‘forget it’ while she focused on justice. This has created a toxic environment for the country, where women use alternative methods to get what they think they deserve and men think they have the right to suppress women. The given topic has gone on to receive attention in the international arena.

Read more: 48% of Pakistani Women have no say in their health matters

In a recent interview of Mahira Khan on HARDtalk, BBC, she was asked many questions which implied that Pakistan was unable to absorb and appreciate the modern woman. With the focus on many controversies surrounding the actress, from being a single mother to sharing a cigarette with an Indian actor, Mahira Khan had to defend her standing, as a woman, in Pakistani media.

However, this is not to say that our society hasn’t taken a step towards change. The turmoil created after the recent Zainab rape case was a first for the country, but the lack of initiative taken in our households is appalling. We should be teaching our daughters to stand up and speak out – voice themselves – they deserve more than the society tells them. It starts with people like us, who have the time and money to stand for equality and help the poor.

This is not an article about feminism, but an attempt to reach out about what is inherently wrong in our society; the suppression of the ‘other’ sex. This is shown in small, every day gestures that we consider the norm.

We are closer to a just society, that’s for sure, but that does not change or even justify the harsh realities of the country such as the fact that a woman is raped every 2 or 3 hours in our country. We consist of two extremes, those who use to religion to justify everything and those who cannot understand the culture and religion of the country – why is that we have failed to find middle ground and stand for change, taking religion along with the world to find justice, together.

Read more: International Women’s Day: GVS pays tribute to Benazir Bhutto

“Deen aur Dunya” – the words taught to almost every middle-class household. Yet, here we stand, with such injustice and un-Islamic practices being exercised in our country with no one to stand up for the change that is so desperately needed. It’s a matter of basic human rights.

Farheen Ali Khan has a degree in International Development and works as Research Analyst at Global Village Space. The views expressed in this article are authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 


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