Khadija Siddiqui was one of the ‘lucky’ ones. She saw justice served.
This is what it has come to. This is how we are forced to define ‘luck’ in today’s democratic Pakistan — a democratic Pakistan that certain quarters wish to defend from the overpowering reach of the courts. To them, we suggest that they are standing the wrong way before the looking glass.
Kainat Bibi was not lucky. She is dead. After suffering years of repeated rape by a ‘man’ who had promised marriage. The last six months being excruciatingly torturous for the 21-year-old Punjabi villager. This ‘man’ decided to murder her. In one of the cruellest ways possible: forcing a bottle of acid down her throat. It took Kainat six months to die and her permanently damaged vocal chords left her unable to speak. And now she is dead. While her murderer-rapist roams free. The court let him out on bail. It is said here in this country that influence may buy one freedom.
To those who say Pakistan has a democracy worth saving, we say: you are no longer standing the wrong way before the looking glass. You have fallen through. What democracy do you talk of when the perpetuators of violence against the two biggest global icons of Pakistani women’s resilience — Mukhtaran Mai and Malala Yousafzai — have never been brought to account?
We say, we don’t need this version of democracy. Education for our girls, that is something we need. Education for families, too. This is something that Mukhtaran Mai has long identified as the crucial link in the fight for democracy. Recalling her own ordeal, she has often noted that apart from her mother, her own family had initially not supported her going to the police — and later to the courts — against the men who gang raped her for an alleged crime by another’s hand. This she says is because they were uneducated. For where there is lack of awareness — there can only be darkness and fear. She has similarly spoken out about the need for education in terms of knowing one’s rights. Of knowing when and how one is signing away one’s life to blind justice with the simple print of a thumb.
We also need to educate society as a whole to respect that women and their bodies are not commodities to be bartered on the open market. We need to do this so that no more are we home to a country that sees a young girl have acid thrown on her by her parents afraid of where her looking out of the window at a boy on a motorbike may lead. And one place to start is doing away with the false East-West dichotomy. Meaning ridding ourselves of the presumed narratives pitting so-called decadent ‘westernised’ values against manufactured ‘eastern’ conservatism. In short, a return to the human prism is needed, a feminist prism of the intersectional kind. One that seeks not to stereotype Pakistan as a regressive backward Muslim backwater. But one that recognises how women all over the world face the same torment at the hands of the patriarchy. For it is the latter that must be smashed. Not women.