The status of women’s empowerment in Pakistan is alien to nobody and this has been reflected and continues to be reflected in the experiences and incidents that we see everyday- although this is an added debate that how many of them get reported and receive media traction and how many of them are hushed up. Recent motorway incident in Sep 2020 that got national as well international traction, was absolutely neither the first incident nor, perhaps, will be the last as well. National as well as the international media frequently portrays the plight of women in Pakistan but on the ground level, the response is still muted. Pakistan performed very poor at World Economic forum’s flagship “Global Gender Gap Index Report 2020” as well and was ranked on the 151st position out of 153 countries: ahead of only Iraq and Yemen. This speaks volumes!
While this is true that women and other rights groups continue to raise their voices despite a hostile and non-conducive environment, and this was observed when Aurat March was challenged in the several courts of the country and the organizers were threatened. But what is not discussed and not debated is the possibility of selective approach in the case of activism for women that hampers the cause of women empowerment.
An apt example of this truth is the case of Momal Meghwar in Thar Sindh in the same month of September. Momal’s case was analogous to the motorway incident but there was not ample uproar in both the mainstream media and in the circles of Pakistani intelligentsia. What is very distressing part in this case is that the young girl was raped by a group of three in July last year, her father lodged a case with the local police station against the culprits- hailing from the same village –but inaction on the part of police and victim side being the underprivileged, could not peruse the case in the court properly and the accused became successful to get bail and moving forward, the trial in the case got delayed due to Coronavirus as well. The influential culprits not just became successful to get bail but continued to blackmail victim till she committed suicide earlier this month by jumping in the village well.
While this case is not the only evidence, several other incidents also indicate the same. Aurat Marchs are likewise held in the country’s urban centers only and lack the representation of rural women who bear the brunt most. But it is also pertinent to mention here that Sukkur’s march saw a significant number of the women from the downtrodden strata and this is indeed a laudable step on the part of organizers. What reinforces this is that it has also been noted that in the cases of forced conversions of minority girls in Sindh, many of them from the lower Sindh never get reported because this part of Sindh is dominated by lower-caste Hindus. Moreover, in lower Sindh, the trend of suicides in general and suicides of women in particular, has also increased in the recent years and needs the attention of policymakers and those in power echelons. Lastly, this is important to talk about here and demands the interest of women and other rights groups that their activism does not alienate anybody and dispels any such imprint as this impression may not augur well for their efforts and struggle.