Brutality at the family level

  • An uneducated family can only go so far

It is time the people of this country realise what is going on and insist on change, before the entire nation breaks down. The clampdowns on the press, the judicial deficiencies, and interference by various institutions in matters that are not their remit, and sheer incompetence at every single level, all these are matters of the greatest concern. But worst of them all, the hardest to swallow is the brutality at the family level.

There are laws in this country that aim to protect women in cases of domestic violence, forced marriage, or the myriad other ways in which women are abused. But none of these laws appear to be enforced. At times young men are brutalised as well as their female counterparts. The most ghoulish of such cases took place last week in Nasirabad in Baluchistan, when a twenty two year old man had his eyes gouged out with a spoon by his own father, assisted by four of his sons. The reason for this demonic act was that the young man wished to marry his girlfriend and had told his family so. A similar case took place in Mexico recently, as part of a satanic rite. Why are our role models always so terrible?

In Karachi recently, a couple who married a couple of years ago was shot dead by members of the woman’s family, because theirs was a marriage of choice. There have been many more such cases. In the period of one year, the Independent Human Rights Commission says at least 280 such killings have taken place, a figure the Commission says is much less than the actual number.

Medieval systems such as jirgas that prescribe horrific punishments for ‘affairs’ between men and women are allowed to exist and thrive. It is almost unknown for the murderers to receive the justice that is due to them. Aside from anything else, there are too many loopholes in the law. In the case of Qandeel Baloch, for example, the state had to turn complainant to prevent the victim’s family from forgiving the brother, which would have allowed him to get away with the murder of his sister. The only reason the state was more proactive in her case was that Qandeel’s murder was very much in the limelight and hit the headlines in Pakistan, and other countries as well.

Recently, a Pakistani girl who grew up in Italy was sent to Pakistan by her family under false pretenses. The actual reason was that her family, that had previously forced her to abandon her studies in Italy, wanted to marry her off in Pakistan against her will. Because she was an Italian national and because the Italian embassy became involved, the girl was traced and rescued, and is to be sent back to Italy where she wishes to live and continue her studies. Such an ending is unusual.

The government being handcuffed and forced to cave in to demands, laws which if they are opposed lay people open to assassination and the death penalty — all these issues have radical, armed extremist elements behind them

There are some provisions for such victims, some facilities for women in trouble, in the Punjab, but murders and abuse of women take place here regardless. Nowhere in Pakistan do there appear to be attempts to make inroads in the way people think, although the way people think is even more important than laws. To prove that point, the greatest number of cases of forced marriage in the UK, take place in the Pakistani community despite the laws of that country, laws that are enforced. Such acts, ironically are seen by the Pakistani community as ‘preserving our culture.’

Where do these ideas come from, that women are ‘property’, to be made to do as one wishes, that marriage is the business of the parents and brothers as much as the wedded couple, that it is okay to beat a woman, and okay not to educate girls. Islam does not teach this, quite to the contrary. Instead, it is the purveyors of religion, teachers at madrassahs, the mullah in the mosque – red, green, blue and gold, it is these people who are culpable. No less culpable are people like Rana Sanaullah whose statement regarding women was obscene in the extreme, and he remains undisciplined.

Unless everyone, particularly people in any kind of authority, are educated, unless they are forced to impart decent values, unless they are held responsible for the damage they cause, this state of affairs will not only continue, it will get worse.

The government being handcuffed and forced to cave in to demands, laws which if they are opposed lay people open to assassination and the death penalty — all these issues have radical, armed extremist elements behind them. Quite openly.

An uneducated family can only go so far. When its members are told in very forceful terms by so called ‘religious figures’ that something is prescribed by religion, they accept it as true, sometimes only because they need to survive in the community in which they live.

Is there a solution? Laws, any number of laws, are ineffective until the problem can be fixed at the grassroots, the family level. How that is to be done is open to debate. One suggestion would be to get rid of the mullah altogether. I know. Easier said than done. But it is possible.