Every week, nay every day, we hear of incidents of violence against women. A couple of weeks ago, the viral video of Usman Mirza harassing and subjecting a couple to sexual assault made the headlines. Then we heard of a man who shot his wife, Saima, in front of his children in Peshawar just this month. On July 15, another man tortured and killed his wife, Quratulain, in Hyderabad; they had four children. After each news, we think about what could be worse. But this cycle never ends as we hear of another shocking incident one after another.
This week, Noor Mukadam was murdered in Islamabad by Zahir Zakir Jaffer. A son of an influential businessman, Zahir is a dual national. According to the police, Zahir held Noor captive for a couple of days in his house before beheading her. She tried to escape once but was captured again by her tormentor. Noor’s gruesome death has left every woman wondering what it means to be a woman in a patriarchal society where no woman is safe just because of her gender.
Noor’s murder has sent shockwaves across the country. People are protesting and asking for justice. Details of this case leave one feeling completely helpless. We cannot even fathom the plight of her parents, her family. We didn’t know Noor personally but her murder feels so personal. Just reading how her mother kept saying that she leaves it in Allah’s hands (Allah ke hawaalay, Allah ke hawaalay) makes us cry in anger and agony. Why do women have to keep suffering? These incidents are not in isolation. It has everything to do with the fact how we treat our women in general, how misogyny is prevalent in our society, how toxic masculinity is present in almost every household, and how there is so much inequality between genders.
Pakistan ranks 153 in the Global Gender Gap Report 2021 out of 156 countries. We have slipped two spots since last year as Pakistan’s gender gap had widened by 0.7 percentage points. Have we ever wondered why? There are at least 1,000 honour killings each year as per reports. Women are killed, maimed, beaten up, raped, sexually assaulted, kidnapped, and much more. Whenever such incidents make headlines, there are always those who say this will tarnish our country’s image instead of saying that we need to change and reform our society. Fingers are almost always pointed at women, never at men who are the perpetrators of violent crimes against women. When we blame the victims and survivors, we — in essence — end up justifying the crime and giving impunity to the criminal. This must stop. Our justice system also needs to deliver. Conviction rates in most cases of violence against women are low. It makes women feel even more insecure.
Let’s make our women safe. Let’s teach our children about gender equality. Let’s call out each and everyone who blames the victims. Let’s call out patriarchy and misogyny for what it is instead of making up excuses for violent crimes. Let women live.