Pakistan’s Latest Ruling Makes Us Want To Bang Our Heads On The Table And Weep

In today's depressing news, two judges have ruled that women are second class citizens, even when it comes to raising children...

Two Supreme Court judges in Pakistan have reportedly ruled that when a couple divorces, the woman only gets to continue raising their children throughout infancy as their ‘supervisor’ – before passing them over to their husband when they’re old enough, because he is their legal ‘guardian’.

Judges Mian Saqib Nisar and Ejaz Ahmad Chaudhry also ruled that Pakistani women cannot keep their children away from their fathers following a divorce, whatever the circumstances.

Of course, it makes sense: these are men who have spent nine months of carrying their offspring inside their bodies… Oh wait.

Depressingly, it’s not the first time courts in Pakistan have ruled against women’s rights. It’s not even nearly the first time. In fact, we can’t even count the number of occasions when the country’s legal system has turned a blind eye when treat their wives, sisters, mothers and daughters like second class citizens.

After all, this is a country where up to 90 per cent of women are estimated to experience domestic abuse, where it’s reported only 39 per cent of adult women can read (limiting their options for financial independence) and where 24 per cent of girls are married off before they reach the age of 18 (in many cases when they’re only eight or nine years old).

In fact, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in 2013, 56 women were murdered for giving birth to girls. 150 women were burned in acid attacks, incidents of gas leakage and stove burning. According to that year’s Punjab police crime statistics, 2,576 cases of rape of women were registered in that province alone.

And for as long as the country’s judicial system continues to not only enable this, but encourage this, then change is going to be a long and drawn-out process.

‘Gender violence in Pakistan takes a variety of forms, some of which are common across cultures such as marital violence, including verbal abuse, hitting, kicking, slapping, rape and murder, and economic and emotional abuse,’ says Filomena Critelli, a researcher at the University of Buffalo.

‘Other forms of violence are rooted in traditional practices that continue under the guise of social conformism, customs and misinterpretations of religion, that also include exchange marriage, death by burning (stove deaths, which are presented as accidents), acid attacks and nose cutting (a form of humiliation and degradation). Women are also raped and abused while in police custody, which further deters many women from reporting crimes against them.’

Thankfully, things are improving. This girl is campaigning for parents to keep their daughters in school, education levels are on the rise, and increasing numbers of female activists are fighting to raise awareness of women’s rights around the country. 

Now if only the courts would catch up with them. 

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