Life after rape
Javeria not only had to put up with the reality of what had happened to her, but at the same time, bear the prejudice of her relatives. The many taunts passed on by neighbours, and worse still, from her own family, made her sad and for a very long time she felt that it was her own fault. Her only friend in the neighbourhood, Naima, was not allowed to meet her, and thus, she lost contact with her best friend as well
By Saher Baloch
The husband of 20-year-old Javeria Ali, Amir, is among the very few men to have received psychological counseling of being in a relationship with a rape survivor. Unlike Amir, many carry with them the biases against rape survivors that have been ingrained through "societal values," while the victims themselves seek some form of support in dealing with something not of their own doing.

Indus Watch
Charting the women's movement in Sindh
By Zulfiqar Shah
The contemporary movement for the rights and liberation of women in Sindh is deeply connected to the emancipation movement of women during the pre-partition era. In the last one-and-a-half century, the women rights movement has been shaped by the influence of political and socio-economic development of Sindh, and it becomes imperative to analyse the historical patchworks between pre- and post-partition Sindh history to understand contemporary Sindh.

Daughter of the soil
'A woman in rural areas is a political non-entity'
Amar Sindhu talks to Zulfiqar Shah about the contemporary outlook of the women's movement in Sindh, and how gender is placed within a larger rights movement of the oppressed
Has urbanisation and socio-economic development contributed positively to the women rights situation in Sindh?
There is no remarkable difference in the sociological context, although a socio-economic change at a certain level has been witnessed over the past two decades. Due to urbanisation, cities have grown in size, but the quality of life remains questionable. There is, no doubt, a considerable change in human rights situation of women in comparison to the decades of the 80s and 90s. The situation is relatively better in urban hubs, however, the situation has further deteriorated in rural areas.

 

By Rabia Ali

As night falls, a 16-year-old girl closes her eyes in a bid to fall into a peaceful slumber. But instead of serenity, she finds herself threatened and surrounded by horrifying visions of one particular day. A day which changed the entire course of her life.

"Neither can I sleep at night nor can I remain at ease during the day. The horrible flashbacks of the time when I was being assaulted continue to haunt me, followed by threats of the influential. Meanwhile, there are other fears too, such as what does the future has for me and whether would I be able to see my culprits behind bars," said Kainat Soomro, a gang-rape survivor.

It was 2007, in the area of Mehar, Dadu district that the then 13-year-old was allegedly gang-raped by four men. She was then threatened of dire consequences when she chose to break the silence and took the matter to the court.

She felt disgraced when the alleged rapists were acquitted by the court in May for want of evidence. She was devastated when her brother Sabir's dead body was found in Balochistan, as he was punished for supporting his sister and fighting for her right.

"When I was gang-raped, the society called me a liar. They thought I was faking the incident even though my medical tests proved that I was raped. They refused to believe that my family and I were being threatened," she told Kolachi.

Akin to Kainat, another gang-rape victim feels threatened by her past, present and the future. Naseema Lubano, was able to win a partial victory when one of the seven accused was sentenced to life imprisonment by court in January 2010. The rest were acquitted for want of evidence.

Gang-raped in Ubavro, Sindh, in 2007, however, she has failed to recover from the traumatising incident and has isolated herself from everything.

"I am very frightened as I feel that the acquitted men will kill me. I do not even go out of my home, fearing for the worse. Instead I spend my entire day sitting at home thinking about the past and what would happen next," the depressed Naseema told Kolachi.

Her brother Ali Asghar said that Naseema has been on medications since the time the accused men were acquitted. "It's been three years that the incident took place but she has been unable to forget the incident."

Rape is treated as a social taboo in this part of the world. Since the victim is looked down upon, recovery becomes difficult and often impossible for the survivor.

"Rape which means forcible intercourse by one person and gang-rape which is forcible intercourse by more than one is still considered unmentionable even today. The survivors instead of being supported are sneered at and made a mockery of by others," said Khalida Ahmed Quadri, the Socio-Legal Officer of War against Rape, an NGO working specifically for the rights and protection of rape victims and survivors.

Facts and Figures:

According to WAR, since the start of the year, around 44 rape cases in the city alone have been reported. While the victims mainly comprises minor and young girls, the accused have found to be teenagers or under the 30 age bracket. Meanwhile, most of the incidents took place in the impoverished and cramped areas of Landhi, Korangi and Orangi.

Meanwhile, Sohail Abro, of the Society against the Rights of the Child (SPARC) said that from January 2010 till now, some 60 rape and sodomy cases of children have so far been reported. "Around 20 of these cases belong to Karachi while the rest of them took place in areas of Interior Sindh including Nawabshah, Larkhana and Dadu."

According to the annual report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, around 928 rapes cases were reported across the country in the year 2009.

A comprehensive report by Madadgar Helpline, on 10-year violence against women states that around 4,762 women were raped, while 2,200 were gang-raped. Meanwhile, some 3,172 cases of rape were reported against children and 2,719 cases of sodomy.

Victims:

With minor girls becoming more and more victims of the rape and gang-rape, members of the civil society feel that the due to the susceptibility and defenselessness of young girls, they are being victimised for such crimes.

Rukhsana Siddique, rehabilitation officer of WAR said that the reasons why children became easy victims are as they do not resist. "Minor girls are whisked away easily. Moreover, when they are assaulted, they do not fight back due to their weak physical structure."

Also, the effects on minor survivor are much more devastating than older ones. A recent case is of a six-year-old girl who was gang-raped in Kotri. Following the incident, the little girl refuses to talk about it even to her family. Her father Joseph talking to Kolachi said, "She will talk about anything but will not say anything about that incident. She is extremely terrified and keeps on shivering even when she is sleeping."

Causes:

A sociologist Rana Asif term the lack of lawlessness in the country has emerged as the main cause for increasing incidents of rape. The conviction rate is merely five percent. Then there are other issues which lead to rape such as inflation, rampant poverty and unemployment.

Sohail Abro states other factors, "Due to the deteriorating condition of the education system and lack of healthy recreational activities, the youth have fallen prey to immoral and illegal doings. Drugs, petty crimes and societal frustrations have all added to rape incidents."

Meanwhile, Shiraz Ahmed, an officer of the WAR, pointed out another factor saying that a lot of mini-cinemas have sprouted out in the city where the youngsters are shown pornographic movies. "Due to illegal activity, people are becoming habitual of sexual activities."

He cited a recent example in which in a 16-year-old boy in Surjani Town raped a 6-year-old girl after watching a pornographic movie in one such cinema.

Rape unrecognised:

Various kinds of rape are not recognised in the country. One is the kind in which the victim is assaulted by using an object. Shazia, a 15-year-old a victim of domestic violence was raped with a stick by her in-laws, permanently damaging her private organ.

"There is no provision in the constitution which deals with such kind of rape and neither is considered a rape in this country."Also, marital rape which is forcible sex after marriage is also neglected in the society. "A woman who is being forcibly raped can register a case against her husband but this does not happen as people do not take this matter seriously. Meanwhile, the sex without consent with female sex workers is also considered a rape but is hardly thought off as one," said Siddiqui.

Cases not reported:

While an official of WAR claims that rape cases which are reported are hardly ten percent, Taranum Khan of HRCP says that due to the insensitive attitude of the police towards the victim and the length judiciary process turns off the people and they are not willing to report their cases.

But Farida Moten, a lawyer claims that if the victim and medical report is present, no one can stop the accused from getting convicted. "The victim and the medical report are imperative for conviction of the accused men."

On the other hand, SHO of the Women Police Station, Syeda Ghazala admitted that the police are not sensitised in dealing with victims. "It is true that the police is not sensitized. Workshops should be held in this regard to train the officials and inform them how to deal with such cases."

Meanwhile, only cases from lower-class are reported. "Not a single case from the elite class have been reported this year, even those incidents do take place. The upper class is more conscious about their status. Meanwhile, the middle-class is concerned about protecting their dignity and thus refrains from reporting case," said Siddique.

 

Life after rape

Javeria not only had to put up with the reality of what had happened to her, but at the same time, bear the prejudice of her relatives. The many taunts passed on by neighbours, and worse still, from her own family, made her sad and for a very long time she felt that it was her own fault. Her only friend in the neighbourhood, Naima, was not allowed to meet her, and thus, she lost contact with her best friend as well

By Saher Baloch

The husband of 20-year-old Javeria Ali, Amir, is among the very few men to have received psychological counseling of being in a relationship with a rape survivor. Unlike Amir, many carry with them the biases against rape survivors that have been ingrained through "societal values," while the victims themselves seek some form of support in dealing with something not of their own doing.

"Our close relatives gradually stopped coming to our place once they got to know that I am a rape survivor," said Javeria Ali. At a young age of 16, Javeria was raped by her own uncle, the memory of which still haunts her, as her big brown eyes cloud over, remembering the trauma of four years back. Now married, she says that she can not take even small decisions as she feels unable to carry them forward and fears making a mistake.

There can be no empathy when it comes to understanding the trauma of being raped. In a society where alleged rapists roam free, many rape survivors are unable to get some psychological counseling. Worse still, those who interact with these women are unable to understand and connect with rape survivors.

Even though Javeria went through a full physical examination by a doctor in Civil Hospital Karachi after her ordeal, she was not asked to come for a counselling session, which Dr Summaiya Tariq, Medico Legal Officer at CHK says is not felt necessary by the doctors on duty. Speaking about the loopholes in the medical fraternity, she says that "There is no systematic way of treating a rape survivor in hospitals. There is a particular way of communicating with them and treating them which is not considered by anyone," which leaves many of them on the mercy of their surroundings and family members, who may not be as understanding.

"The anguish and pain a rape survivor has to go through is tremendous especially in our part of the world, as people are constantly rude to them and pass off rude comments," says Shiraz, an officer at War Against Rape. He explained that the process for a rape survivor can be made easy with the support and care of their family. Speaking about Javeria's case he said that her husband was given counseling sessions after their marriage as he used to be mean to her. "Now he is comparatively better and takes care of her as well. But Javeria will need counseling for the rest of her life as she has the tendency to be quiet and not share what she is feeling."

Living in a congested locality of Machar Colony, Javeria looks silently around her in her two room flat and seems pre-occupied as she narrates what happened to her. The shock of being raped at the age of 16, that too by her own uncle is still fresh in her mind. Talking about it she says that she has no regrets but at times she says she feels hopeless that whatever she has will be taken away from her.

Being born and brought up in Gujarat, Javeria was brought to Karachi by her mother who left her in her paternal aunt's home as she wanted her to pursue education. After getting through the fourth grade, her education was stopped as the family could not afford her monthly fees.

"It was my fault entirely," says Fatima, her aunt looking at her guiltily, "as I trusted that man too much." Azhar Hussain was adopted by Fatima's husband as he was an orphan and no one in the family was willing to adopt him. He was given the responsibility of taking care of the kids and looking after the house. Fatima gave him the responsibility so that he could stay occupied and not become a drug addict, "which is cheap and easily available in our area." Eventually he got married and his visits became more frequent.

Looking down at her hands, Javeria says that one day he asked her to accompany him to a nearby place. The nearby place, turned out to be a far off place from her colony as Azhar Hussain took her in a run down house. "Before I could ask him anything he said that he wants to marry me and asked me to do as he said, I tried running away but it was too late." Javeria says she was dragged and slapped repeatedly and even tried screaming but he covered her mouth with his hand.

At home no one knew what happened and it was only when it was time for evening prayers that Fatima knew something has happened to Javeria. "I can not walk properly but that day I ran from house to house searching for her." After three hours Javeria was found in an old house unconscious and filthy. "I do not have kids of my own that is why I kept her with me and looking at her that way tore my heart, I wanted to kill myself."

From that day on, Javeria not only had to put up with the reality of what had happened to her but at the same time bear the prejudice of her relatives as well. The many taunts passed on by the neighbours and worst still from her own family made her sad and for a very long time she felt that it was her own fault. Her only friend in the neighborhood, Naima was not allowed to meet her and so she lost contact with her as well.

"Many of those who do not come at my place now, are the ones I took care of when they were kids, but maybe we had to go through that," she adds sadly. Frustrated with the constant bickering and nasty comments by her relatives, Javeria was married in haste to a 30-year-old man, Amir Ali, who besides being unemployed was also a drug addict, but married her nonetheless. He is presently going through counseling at a local NGOs office in order to bridge the communication gap between the couple. When asked if she is happy now, with a year old son in tow she says yes, quietly. Apparently, nobody asked her whether she wants to get married or not. But after four years and a son she says she has accepted her fate and is in much better condition than before.

In the meantime, not being deterred by the incident, Fatima also lodged an FIR and took the culprit to the court. Azhar Hussain was eventually arrested and was imprisoned for three years but was set free after that. The police is still on a look out for him.

Rape, which makes headlines every few days, is not discussed openly in the metropolis which makes it difficult to address the issues head on. As a result of which the families hide facts and feel embarrassed in sharing the details of the incident. Dr Summaiya says that fear of risking their dignity is the main thing that forces people to keep away from seeking professional help. Dr Summaiya argues and says that the focus of the medical fraternity should be to make people comfortable in seeking help and to make the process of examination simple for the people. "Most importantly a person need reassurance that the person responsible for the counseling is competent and means no harm, which being a long drawn process is gradually happening in our society." She says with the help of NGOs, who help such people open up, as well as the doctors it can be made possible that families come forward to seek help and counselling.

 

 

Indus Watch

Charting the women's movement in Sindh

By Zulfiqar Shah

The contemporary movement for the rights and liberation of women in Sindh is deeply connected to the emancipation movement of women during the pre-partition era. In the last one-and-a-half century, the women rights movement has been shaped by the influence of political and socio-economic development of Sindh, and it becomes imperative to analyse the historical patchworks between pre- and post-partition Sindh history to understand contemporary Sindh.

The Sindhi middle class, which started emerging after the British occupation of Sindh in 1843, gradually started focusing women rights vis-à-vis socioeconomic evolution of Sindhi society. The first ever character in this process was Dayaram Gidumal (1857 - 1927), an intellectual and reformer, who helped set up the Nari Shala (women protected house) in the late 1880s, where widows could spend their time reading Guru Granth Saheb, the holy book of Sikhs, and doing social work.

Gidumal is credited for establishing the Sindh Sabha in 1870s, a political-cum-reformist movement, through which he campaigned against the various violations of women's rights in Sindh and the rest of united India. A Hindu by birth, Gidumal had a multi-religious outlook, and could read Bhagwat Gita in Sanskrit, the Holy Koran in Arabic, and the Bible in Hebrew.

As it was, Sindh had a strange secular outlook at that time, but oppression against women remained a concern. In his treatise "Seven Sins against Women," Gidumal detailed the practices of body piercing for tattoo marks, barring women education and sports opportunities, traditionalising ivory bangles, childhood marriage, mothers-in-law's harassment, child-motherhood and death during delivery.

Gidumal also struggled against the dowry system, and managed to convince the Hindu Panchayat in Sindh to fix 500 rupees as the maximum ceiling for dowry. He also played a major role in the historic petition that demanded the tradition of Satti in India to be banned.

All these measures caught the public's imagination in Sindh and various parts of United India, especially some parts of United Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Bombay. In early 1900s, the female membership of Sindh Sabha had exceeded 5,000.

In 1878, a strange event gathered moss in Sindh. According to K. R. Malkani, "Tharoo, a Hindu young man with wife and children fell in love with a Muslim girl and embraced Islam to marry her. When 'Sheikh Tharoo' lost his Muslim wife, he wished to return to his family and became a Hindu."

The introduction of English education, especially in Bombay and Calcutta, and the increasing number of British-educated Sindhis returning home started changing the complexion of Sindhi urban society into one with Anglo influences.

It was during this period that Navalrai, a Sindhi Amil from Hirabad, Hyderabad and belonging to a bureaucrat family during the Talpur rule, merged his Sikh Sabha into the Sindh Sabha. Navalrai was the founder of Brahmo Samaj in Sindh, while he is also considered to be the father of education in the Sindh of that era. He built a Brahmo Mandir in Hyderabad, and sent his younger brother Hiranand (1863-93) to Calcutta, who later on became a role model for Sindhi young man and girls, where he lived much of the time with Keshub Chandra Sen, a much revered Bengali reformer of that time.

Both Sadhu Amil brothers started the N.H. Academy in Hyderabad. According to K. R. Malkani, Hiranand took his two daughters to Bankipore in Bihar for their education under Shrimati Aghor Kamini Prakash Roy, the mother of Dr B.C. Roy, who rose to become chief minister of West Bengal. After the demise of the Sadhu Brothers, Brahmo movement activists converted the Nav Vidyalaya High School and Brahmo Kundanmal into the Kundanmal Girls High School in Hyderabad.

In the late 1930s, Om Mandali, or popularly known as the Brahma Kumaris, became famous in India. It was a socio-religious organisation started by Dada Lekhraj Kripalani (1876 - 1969), who had been a Sindhi jeweller in Calcutta. The Om Mandali mostly attracted women, especially of the business community of Hyderabad, Sindh. "The unmarried among them refused to marry; and the married ones gave it in writing to their husbands that the latter were free to re-marry."

After political and religious organisations such as the Indian National Congress and the Arya Samaj denounced the Om Mandali as a "disturber of family peace," the Sindh government banned the organisation. However, Om Mandali approached the court, and had the ban order quashed. It was the time when Sadhu Vaswani, a Sufi saint, initiated a movement for women which is popularly known as the Mira Movement.

This was the period of the First World War. Sindh had a strange time in united India. At a time when M. K. Gandhi was addressing "War Recruitment Festivals," Dr Tuljaram Khilnani of Nawabshah publicly campaigned against the War Loan Bonds. Consequently, when Gandhi sought election to the All India Congress Committee from Bombay provincial committee, delegates from Sindh opposed his election in view of his support to the British war effort.

It was for the first time in Sindh that women publically came out on the streets to support another Indian political icon, Tilik ji. During his visit of Sindh in 1920, "women for the first time came out of their seclusion and offered Arati to him." In British Sindh, there is no other example of women coming out of the confines of their homes to join processions.

The role of women further came to the fore during the 1942 movement for independence from British rule. According to KR Malkani, many women leaders of that time, including Ganga, wife of Acharya Gidvani; Kiki, sister of Kripalani; Ambi Khilnani, daughter-in- law of Kauromal; and Kumari Jethi Sipahimalani, deputy speaker of the Sindh legislative Assembly, played a significant role in Sindhi public life.

On the other hand, the role of women warriors and espionage during the Hur War II for the liberation of Sindh was remarkable. One of the warriors, Fatima, was held for killing 50 British soldiers during that war.

According to the research of Dr Dur Mohammad Pathan during the period April 1937 to August 1940, the Congress MLAs in Sindh Legislative Assembly tabled the following issues concerning women rights in Sindh:

a) Bill No.XV1 0f 1939 (to amend the Hindu law governing women's right to property in Sindh); the Bill was introduced by Jethi Sipahimalani.

b) On August 17, 1937, Ghanshyam Jethanand moved an adjournment motion that was later "disallowed". The subject of the motion was "Police torture and outrage at Mithi, Tharparkar district over stripping sweeper girls, and committing rape on them."

c) On March 23, 1939, Muhammad Amin Khoso moved an adjournment motion with the subject: "Barbarous behaviour of Sub-Inspector of Police of Tando Jam shown to Haris and their womenfolk of Unar Village of Taluka Hyderabad". The motion was "talked out".

This is no doubt about the fact that pre-partition women rights movement was led and joined by the urbanised and literate Hindu middle and lower class. The Muslim women mostly remained uneducated, and were kept at a distance from political movements. The only exceptions were that of the Hur Guerrila movement, and the Sindh Hari Committee movement for land rights under the leadership of Comrade Hyder Bux Jatoi, in which Mai Bakhtawar was killed by settler landlords in Mirpurkhas and became an icon of the peasants' rights movement in Sindh. Inspired by this character, Benazir Bhutto named her daughter after her.

The post-partition women rights movement in Sindh has witnessed various stages of evolutions. The social crises of Sindhi society after the migration of Hindus - the sole Sindhi middle class to India, ultimately adversely affected the women rights movement in the province. The first post-partition resurgence of women's rights came through literature, especially poetry and fiction, in 1960s.

In the 1970s, this revival further strengthened with the emergence of the Sindhi salaried middle class. At this time, many a left-leaning, nationalist and even centrist parties and political groups started organising women fronts of their organisations. The most popular fronts were of Sindhi Awami Tehreek's Sindhyani Tahreek under the ideological influence of Rasool Bux Palejo. Naari Tahreek, the women's front of the Jeay Sindh movement, also has its roots in Sindhi society of that time. Many activists, writers, teachers and poetesses of Sindh are inspired or influenced by these two movements.

The role of Sindhi women in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) is also remarkable. In one of the protests in 1983 against martial law staged in Moro city, around 5,000 women took to the streets on a call issued by the mother of Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi. A clash occurred between the police and protesters, and many policemen and security personnel were murdered in the Moro during the protest.

During and in the post-MRD scene, women's rights and emancipation movement was deeply connected with the national, democratic and class question of Sindh. The finest Sindhi women writers of our time emerged in that time.

Today the rights movement of Sindhi women is restructuring itself with the combined efforts of political activists, women writers, feminists and civil society. They are developing a new movement by combining issues with the ideology of women emancipation and led by the emerging women's middle class of Sindh.

The writer is the executive director of The Institute for Social Movements, Pakistan. He can be reached at: [email protected]

 

Daughter of the soil

'A woman in rural areas is a political non-entity'

Amar Sindhu talks to Zulfiqar Shah about the contemporary outlook of the women's movement in Sindh, and how gender is placed within a larger rights movement of the oppressed

Has urbanisation and socio-economic development contributed positively to the women rights situation in Sindh?

There is no remarkable difference in the sociological context, although a socio-economic change at a certain level has been witnessed over the past two decades. Due to urbanisation, cities have grown in size, but the quality of life remains questionable. There is, no doubt, a considerable change in human rights situation of women in comparison to the decades of the 80s and 90s. The situation is relatively better in urban hubs, however, the situation has further deteriorated in rural areas.

The process of urbanization is unplanned, unorganized and unconscious; therefore it doesn't influence the women rights situation as such. Basically, collective social structure influences the overall women rights scene here.

Urban development and the political scene has unexpectedly isolated rural women, and made them more vulnerable. In the last two decades, rural society of Sindh has become more retrogressive, squeezing space for rural women to have an affirmative access to their rights. The impacts of restriction have opened up space for rights violation. The excesses of women denied their basic needs is coupled with gender-based violence.

How do you analyse the contemporary women rights movement?

A woman in rural areas is a political non-entity. Whenever she is in the process of resistance, she is proactive. There has been no higher level women rights resistance in the last fifty years in Sindh; however, many minor instances of resistance are part of our past and contemporary times.

Urbanisation has opened many avenues for women to the modern web of globalisation, in which fresh currents and flows of knowledge have empowered them enough to become conscious, and at a certain level, vocal for their rights. Exposure through various means and tools of communication has further developed a sense of movement building, provocation and resistance regarding emancipation and rights of women. The process has been recently initiated by resistance and struggle for individual issues or cases.

The credit of the contemporary scene goes to education, access to information and exposure to professional life and the world outside. This has helped Sindhi women to develop their own worldview about society and politics, including their rights and violation of these rights. Therefore, new opportunities have opened up in that context for a relatively backward rural society to come ahead, along with the developed urban women. This is the time when we need to connect women's rights to human necessities.

What is the current scene of women rights violation?

Honor killings, selling women, and extreme form of labour are the worst faces of gender-based violence in Sindh, specifically in the rural north. This is due to the political economy of these areas, and the power nexus of rural society, which has been made more tribal than ever before by making the state apparatus invisible. There are many economic factors, particularly property, that leads tribal communities to honor killings, selling girls and forced marriages. The perception for women to become identical to a man's honor has turned her into the virtual commodity.

Do you see any connectivity between women rights struggle with other social movements?

According to the Paulo Frère, the struggle cannot always go on in the same frame. It's a process of gradual development.

If we see the movement in its literary context, we will see that there is a huge literary movement which has greatly contributed in the women rights struggle in Sindh. The actual issue is that the oppressed are not conscious of oppression. In fact, the conceptualisation of a movement is always at a higher stage than that of the prevailing society. The question is one of connecting these movements within Sindh, rest of Pakistan and globally, because this process helps out in defining and redefining itself in the context of liberation and rights struggle of women.

There is an issue of discourse within political movements. Activism supports theory, and vice versa. Both are gradual in their process, and are interchangeable. If the formation of theory is not reflected by activism and vice versa, then certainly, there are essential gaps in higher concepts, strategic planning and the struggle itself. The real women rights movements can only grow through people's movements.

Is there any space here for reforms and revisualisation of struggle?

A movement around women rights should be, and exists to some extent, around individual as well as collective social issues. It depends on the forms of violation, whether they are individual or collective. One has to keep in the mind that forced marriages and honour killings are backed by rural political economy; the reflections of which always revolves around personal, individual and collective issues. Therefore any movement that emerges tomorrow will challenge the major issues initially at individual level, and then connect the individual with the collective.

What is the relation between women rights movement and other forms of social oppression?

Gradually, the women rights movement will challenge higher forms of political issues. Achieving that stage requires going beyond the abastractism in movement as well as in issues. We should not keep ourselves and struggle process in the illusions.

We want a parallel women movement going along with the other rights movements. It must challenge the various forms of operations, including national and class. We have always focused the legal framework for women's rights; this is the time when we need to connect the personal or individual issues of women with the collective and legal or legislative reforms.

The nationalist movements in Morocco established some gender-based principles, which caused a mass participation of women in the nationalist struggle. These principles included the abstention of second marriage of a nationalist, and the commitment by a male to provide independent homestead to a wife after marriage. If our movements do not connect personal issues of the movement with the mainstream political initiatives, they will not be able to connect a broad participation of the women in the movement.

There is a huge space for collective struggle for women rights in Pakistan. We have recent examples of success that includes legislation against harassments and seats reservation in the assemblies. This was achieved by many civil society forums initiatives, including Aurat Foundation. Now, this is the time to struggle for the implementation of these laws in society. Today, reality has proved that women parliamentarians are more active in the process of legislation than that of man parliamentarians.

Do you see any effective role of literature?

Pakistan literature today is isolated from people's issues. There is a gradual decline in the role and approach of literature for depicting, portraying and focusing the people's real issues. Even in Sindh, it has encountered a decline.

There is a role of progressive literature in the social movements of Sindh that the majority of the activists and organizations including all forms of nationalists are secular and liberals in their essence in comparison with the other provinces. This is visible especially in the context of fundamentalism. Secularism is the foundational element of Sindhi literature. There is no reactionary writer in Sindh who has become popular. However, a reality we need to appreciate is that in the post 1980s scenario, there is a declining trend in Sindhi literature for social realism. Today, Sindhi literature doesn't represent contemporary Sindhi society.

How do you analyse the state with respect to women's rights?

We are living in a period of state crises in Pakistan. This is a period of catastrophe and destruction, and an age of uncertainties. There will emerge a political movement with deep roots in the society. It is a fact of our times that women leadership of Pakistan is a public critic of the country's issues, such as fundamentalism and oppression

What are the threats to the women rights movements in Pakistan?

The women rights movements today is threatened by the fundamentalism, feudalism and tribalism. I am of the opinion that the state is easier to bargain with than these elements.

 

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