Human Dignity and Honour of Women

Publication Date: 
July 15, 2011
Times of Malta

Human beings have explored more civilisations with the passage of time and we are now in the 21st century. But, in some countries and societies that is merely a technicality and nothing more. The archaic and often criminal notions of justice and honour, particularly the treatment meted out to women, speak of a society that remains mired in a mediaeval mindset. This is evident judging by news from different countries and societies and because the world has emerged as a global village such news and stories are easily accessible.

Respect and tolerance towards each other is one of the great human values. It is said that “love creates love”. I also believe that “respect creates respect”. And when everyone tries to respect one another and when men and women are equally respected in a society, then the social and family system will become stronger and healthier.

Women constitute almost half of the world population and are one of the main stakeholders of a society. Women play a great role in the social and family system. Sometimes, a woman appears as a mother, sometimes as a wife and sometimes as a daughter. All these roles are respected and dignified.

But, most unfortunately, we sometimes find that women are not treated well and are dishonoured and, in some countries, the situation is even worse. A recent survey by the Guardian indicated that Afghanistan is the worst place in the world for women to live and that the Congo, Pakistan, India and Somalia also fail females, with rape, poverty and infanticide being rife.

Violence against women is rampant in all corners of the world. Such violence is a human rights violation that manifests itself in a number of ways, including: violence against women in custody, women trafficking, forced and unwilling marriages, acid burning, dowry and inheritance deaths, genital mutilation, domestic violence, stoning to death and so-called honour killing.

Also, it is a bitter reality that, every year, thousands of women become victims of these crimes. According to Amnesty International, at least one woman in every three has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime around the world. Every year, violence in the home and the community devastates the lives of millions of women. Gender-based violence kills and disables as many women between the ages of 15 and 44 as cancer.

Here, I strongly and categorically condemn and share a recent story of a middle-aged woman who was pulled out of her house by at least four men, stripped naked and dragged through the streets in Neelor Bala village in Haripur district, Pakistan. Reportedly, the entire village witnessed the ugly and inhuman spectacle but no one dared intervene because the assailants were armed and declared that if anyone came forward to help the woman, they will be shot. One wonders what her crime was. Why was she dishonoured and became the victim of a heinous crime? It is reported that one of the offenders accused her son of having illicit relations with his wife but there were no accusations against her.

This continued for a full hour and those ill-natured people paraded her naked and kept beating her in front of the entire village. The woman says: “Through­-out I was asking myself why this curse had befallen me from nowhere. What had I done? I was begging them to stop. But they didn’t listen.”

And, finally, after all the humiliation, when they released her, she ran to her home, covered herself with clothes and went to a forest and spent the whole night there with her younger son because she couldn’t face her family members. She describes her position saying: “Before all this, I was poor but I had a respectable life, I was happy. But after something like this, my life is finished.”

This incident and the words of that woman are indeed saddening and every sane and sensible person would certainly feel pain at this barbaric act. This act was beyond humanity. Even animals show more respect than these people. This act and every similar act of mistreatment of women are condemnable. Women deserve more respect and dignity because they are as equal as men in respect and honour.

Sadly, the underlying issue remains a barbaric and heinous mindset in which an innocent woman is held for personal interests. It was a case in which people took the law into their own hands and, with the power of a gun, abused the dignity of a woman. The police investigated the case and arrested some of the suspects. But different questions arise: Will the culprits be punished? Will justice be done? Will such humiliation and violence against women end? Will that woman regain her honour and dignity?

The author is president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta.