Is there something to celebrate on women's day?

by Junaid

How long will you be the object of pleasure
In the harem of men’s lust?
how long will you bow your proud head at his feet
like a benighted servant?

Last week the world celebrated International Women’s Day. So did Pakistan with a bit of fanfare on the electronic and print media. I thought of writing something but then wondered if at all there was anything to ‘celebrate’?

Are women in Pakistan any better than before? no morning ever brings sunshine in their lives. Their struggle in their homes and outside continues unabated. Discriminatory laws are still there despite tall claims of enlightened moderation and so-called fair representation of women in parliament & governance (for a country having about 50% women population, is it really fair to have 33% (or even less) representation in local and 17% in national and provincial legislature? and that too fairly dormant considering many women spend their parliamentary life in silence).

Crimes against women still go unpunished. Culprits go scotfree while victims continue to suffer. Acid burn incidents continue to happen. Honor killings shamelessly get endorsed by jirgas. Property rights are still denied to daughters. Women are still married off to the Holy book. Young girls are still gifted as compensation by jirgas. The reality that exists beyond few big cities is horrible. This is that unfortunate country whose President proclaimed and I quote him, “This has become a moneymaking concern. A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped”.

What good can you expect in a country where a military government some quarter of a century back enacted laws against women that no subsequent government could dare condemn let alone repeal.

What is there to celebrate? a system that only acknowledges, recognizes and appreciates men taking women and their contribution for granted? that only sees a woman as a mother, wife, sister or a daughter who is by default much lower in status than her male counterpart and who is a readily available kari to cover up her male family member’s shenanigans? I am not talking about few big cities where many women have made their mark and achieved success (after facing countless difficulties and crossing several bridges). The plight of women beyond these cities is quite unimaginable.

sunti chali aai hoon hai pairon talay jannat
kioon aag main jalti hoon shab o roz khudaya?

mansoob mujh se ghar ki hai izzat o aabru
phir kioon sar e bazar main bikti hoon khudaya?

tu nay ata kari mujhay sha’oor ki daulat
phir naqis ul aql main kioon kehlai khudaya?

kab tak rahain ge zulmat o andoh ke badal
kab aayegi bahar mere aangan main khudaya?

However, as they say hope never dies. Maybe someday some change may take place. May be some day women in remote villages would be able to walk with their heads held high with no fear whatsoever. Maybe some day they get the right to make their own decisions.

Life is all about hope. And struggle. So we must not lose hope and carry on the struggle for a just, tolerant and peaceful society that respects individuals regardless of gender and that gives opportunities to all regardless of gender or any other bias.

I leave with this poem by Farrukh Faroughzad………

To My Sister

Sister, rise up after your freedom,
why are you quiet?
rise up because henceforth
you have to imbibe the blood of tyrannical men.

Seek your rights, Sister,
from those who keep you weak,
from those whose myriad tricks and schemes
keep you seated in a corner of the house.

How long will you be the object of pleasure
In the harem of men’s lust?
how long will you bow your proud head at his feet
like a benighted servant?

How long for the sake of a morsel of bread,
will you keep becoming an aged haji’s temporary wife,
seeing second and third rival wives.
oppression and cruelty, my sister, for how long?

This angry moan of yours
must surely become a clamorous scream.
you must tear apart this heavy bond
so that your life might be free.

Rise up and uproot the roots of oppression.
give comfort to your bleeding heart.
for the sake of your freedom, strive
to change the law, rise up.




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