A 27-year-old woman was first shot and then butchered by an acquaintance in Islamabad last week. Experts say the brutal murder of Noor Muqaddam has exposed the toxic misogyny of Pakistani society.
Noor Muqaddam, a 27-year-old woman and daughter of Pakistan’s former ambassador to South Korea, was brutally murdered in Islamabad on 20 July. Her suspected killer, Zahir Zamir Jaffer, was reportedly an acquaintance of hers. According to police reports, he beheaded Muqaddam after shooting her.
Violence against women is rampant in Pakistan, but a recent spate of murders of women has shocked the South Asian country.
A man burned his wife to death in the southern province of Sindh on Sunday, while another man shot dead his wife, her aunt and two minor daughters in the town of Shikarpur on the same day. A 30-year-old woman who was raped and stabbed to death in Rawalpindi city on Saturday died of her injuries on Sunday.
On 18 July, a woman was tortured to death by her husband in Sindh province. Last month, a man in the northwestern city of Peshawar killed two women, including his ex-wife, in the name of “honor”.
The latest case has sparked a debate on the failure of the state to protect women, the culture of impunity and the reasons behind society’s tendency to curtail women’s independence and inflict pain on them.
A culture of impunity
Pakistan is the sixth most dangerous country in the world for women and is currently experiencing a rapid increase in cases of sexual crimes and domestic violence.
Human rights activists have attributed the recent rise in violence against women to a culture of impunity.
“A man who stabbed a young female lawyer more than 12 times was recently released by a court. What message does this send to perpetrators of violence against women?” Yasmin Lehri, former MP from Baluchistan.
Mukhtar Mai, a women’s rights activist and survivor of the 2002 gang rape, shares this view. Those who commit violence against women do not fear legal consequences,” she told DW, adding that for most Pakistani men, beating women is not even a form of violence. He says feudal and tribal customs are still deeply rooted in Pakistani society.
Other activists also blame patriarchal attitudes in society. Mahnaz Rehman, a feminist from Lahore, said, “Women are taught to obey men because they have a higher position in the family. She adds that women who demand their rights are often subjected to violence.
Patriarchy and religion
Lahore-based activist Shazia Khan believes that in some cases men are encouraged by religious teachings.
“The interpretation of religion by Islamic clerics gives the impression that it allows men to beat women. They also support child marriage and tell women that they must obey their husbands even if they are violent towards them.” He said clerics even encourage men to be violent towards women.
Prime Minister Khan’s ‘victim blaming‘
Many human rights activists in Pakistan have accused Prime Minister Imran Khan of being responsible for the rise in violence against women in the country.
Last month, the conservative prime minister faced backlash after remarks that appeared to blame women for sexual abuse.
“If a woman wears very little, it has an effect on men, unless they are robots,” Khan said in an interview with Axios, a documentary news series that airs on ABC’s HBO network. This is “common sense”, he continued.
Earlier this year, he made similar remarks during a question-and-answer briefing with the public, suggesting that the rise in sexual violence in Pakistan was due to the absence of “pardah”, the practice of wearing the veil, in the country.
“Prime Minister Khan and his ministers continue to make misogynistic statements that promote misogyny and to some extent violence against women in Pakistan,” said activist Shazia Khan.
Former lawmaker Yasmin Lehri argued that Khan’s government had done nothing to protect women. Instead, she said, the government had handed over a bill to end the torture of women to Islamic clerics, who had shelved it.
Conservatives blame ‘western culture’
Like Prime Minister Khan, the country’s conservatives have blamed “Western culture” for sexual and physical violence against women.
Former MP Samia Raheel Qazi said the recent violence involved people who had deviated from the teachings of Islam.
“In the case of Noor Muqaddam, the alleged perpetrator was a westernized atheist,” she told DW, adding that the weakening of the family system under the onslaught of western culture in the country was the cause of these crimes.
MP Kishwar Zehra agreed. We need to revive our family values to stop these crimes”.