PAKISTAN: Do women have the right to live in Islamic societies – when the protector becomes the violator 

From the early ages in Pakistan women have lived in a society which is anti-women where they are treated as unwanted creatures. Pakistan is a country where violations against women are the highest and conditions become even more alarming as women are discriminated against on the basis of gender even before birth. Women in Pakistan suffer atrocities such as honor killings, acid throwing, domestic violence, torture, forced labour, forced marriages, sexual assault and sexual harassment as a norm.

The following story is just one more heart wrenching incident of an oppressed society. It took place in the city of Lahore. In our society the males, the fathers, brothers and husbands claim to be the owners and protectors of their daughters, sisters, mothers and wives and when these protectors become the violators they ruin lives. One such case is that of Sofia Safdar. A few days ago Mr. Safdar Hussain, Sofia’s father allegedly raped his own daughter and after that the family poisoned her. This incident occurred in the Nawan Kot Village of the Gujrat district of Punjab. It came to light when Sobia Amaan, a friend of the victim, sent a letter to the Chief Justice, Umer Ata Bandal of the Lahore High Court based on the information regarding the incident.

For further information on this case please see here. Further articles are also available at: The News and Defence PK.

According to Sobia, her friend Sofia Safdar had been sexually harassed by her father and when she revealed the situation to her family members, her mother, brother and grandmother no one paid any attention and refused to take her side. After that she left her home and shifted towards Gulshan-e-Ravi in Lahore where her relatives sent several messages assuring her that it would not happen again and that she should return home. She did so on May 30, 2013 and after just two days, on June 2, she was dead, poisoned by her relatives and buried secretly in a local graveyard. Her relatives did not report any case against her father.

This incident exposes the religious traditions in Pakistan and the fact that ‘honour’ is more important to the family than the knowledge that a father raped his daughter. Not one of the family members, the mother, siblings, the grandmother and all the other close relatives stood up for the victim and punished the father for such a heinous crime. Instead, the easiest solution was to kill Sofia and bury her in secret so that the family’s shame would be buried, in secret, with her.

Their first priority was to protect the honour of the family and secondly to take the shelter behind religious tradition. The rapist was provided protection by his wife and siblings to murder Sofia in order to hide his crime. The murder of the daughter in the name of honour was, in fact, not to uphold the religious traditions but to reinforce the concept that women are the only source of sexual corruption and therefore it is only the woman that is liable for punishment and not the rapist. The rapist was the bread winner of the family and the victim was dependent on him and therefore liable to be murdered.

Similar cases of honor killings are now a common occurrence in Muslim and Pakistani communities of the west. Despite being welcomed into their adoptive countries they have made no effort to accept the enlightened norms of those societies. Muslims generally allow any crime by their men to be ignored as a birth right but cannot accept the fact that their women also have rights. This outdated attitude does not even spare their daughters from being raped by their fathers.

We cannot accept the fact that crimes are being done in the name of honour and religion and remain silent on such issues because of the restrictions on the freedom of expression

These incidents are common in Pakistan and every day a number of women become prey to the perpetrators as they are considered weak and totally dependent upon others. According to the great philosopher and human rights advocate, Mary Wollstonecraft, “I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.”

It is a sad indictment of Pakistani society that not one religious group or party has raised their voices demanding justice for Sofia and the punishment of the family and the father who was supposed to protect her. This is quite simply because they do not consider violence against women to be a crime. In a society that calls for the woman victim to produce four eye witnesses but the man needs only to speak for himself and DNA testing is not allowed in rape investigations, what justice can be expected? Even the supreme body, the Council of Islamic Ideology has remained silent on this issue and failed to call for the punishment of Sofia’s father. Their attitude remains that women are responsible for the violence perpetrated on them.

It is the opinion of the author that if women are to be treated like animals and incidents where their fathers are allowed to rape and kill them in the name of honour it would be better for the Council of Islamic Ideology to announce this openly, that the existence of women in society is Un-Islamic and rapists have the duty to kill them and hide the evidence.

About the Author:
Nida Paras is working on the youth issues in Pakistan and is office bearer of Progressive Youth Forum, she can be reached at;