However, it is the momentous and historic Punjab Women’s Protection Bill passed by the Punjab Assembly in February 2015 that will bring about a fundamental change in the status of half the population of Pakistan. This legislation criminalises all forms of violence against women, whether domestic, psychological or sexual, and calls for the establishment of shelters and toll-free reporting of abuse. According to the Aurat Foundation, in Punjab alone, there were 5800 cases of violence against women in 2013. The implementation of this legislation will be challenging, given the deep-rooted culture of patriarchy in our society, but the inevitable glitches can be ironed out over time.
In the last few years, Pakistani women seem to be breaking the sound barrier at the international level, whether it is Malala defying bullets for the right of education for girls, the women’s cricket team showing their male counterparts how to win a T20 match, Chinoy walking away with two Oscars, or Ayesha Farooq and her cohorts taking to the skies in fighter jets, guarding the frontiers of our sacred land.
It is difficult to forget a black day in 2008 when a Senator defended the burying of women alive as part of their tradition. Calls to tradition and religion must not be used to cloak primeval urges to oppress and exploit the vulnerable sections of our society: women, children, minorities and the poor.
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