By Meghana Rathore:
In a severe blow to authorities and most importantly, civil liberties in Pakistan, a 25-year-old pregnant woman was stoned to death right outside the High Court in Lahore, which is located on a main downtown thoroughfare in eastern part of the city. This crude behaviour was inflicted upon the innocent woman because she married a man of her choice. This was the decision that had been questioned by her family and a dozen others in the courts wherein her family claimed that she had been kidnapped by the man she married. What rendered the act even more inhuman and vitriolic was the fact that it was her own family, her brothers who began the pelting.
Marrying by the family’s choice is a conservative ritual that is followed in Pakistan like in many other nations including India. Farzana Iqbal had married Mohammad Iqbal by choice which was not well received by her family members who filed a case of kidnapping against her husband. It was for her independent testimony in favour of her husband that she was waiting outside the court with him. However, the mob took the law in their hands and started pelting stones on the couple. Amidst a dozen other families was her own family too.
Her father who also participated in the egregious act later on said “I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it”. The Human Rights Report of Pakistan said that around 869 women had been killed in Pakistan for “honour” in the last year. This incident was received with shock and surprise even by the authorities who have been tracking violence against women in the past. This act was termed as extremely “brutal and public”. What’s astonishing is that even if crimes against women have been reported in the past, the actions undertaken against it have been lenient or the investigations undertaken have been majorly faulty.
It’s pretty clear that violence against women is not an anathema in this part of the world. The mere fact that a woman was stoned to death and that too without any compunction or regrets is suggestive of the fact. It’s sad that religious diktats still hold high grounds in the region and women have to be subjected to such doctrinaire attitudes even in the 21st century. Well, yes these crimes are pervasive not only in Pakistan but elsewhere too. It’s high time religious and moral doctrines are done away with and rationality takes higher ground. It’s not only a matter of domestic concern. In fact in the longer run, this might strengthen the non state actors who want these acts to prevail. Remonstration for the rights of women needs to be strengthened and not only a tacit but a more active approach needs to be undertaken. If the authorities do not act aggressively now, it will just render the condition worse.