Last Updated: Thu Jun 16, 2011 19:49 pm (KSA) 16:49 pm (GMT)

Muna Khan: Parading women naked: Shame and loathing in Pakistan.

Rights for women in Pakistan are bleak. (File photo)
Rights for women in Pakistan are bleak. (File photo)

I was 12 in 1984 when that shameful incident occurred in Nawabpur, Pakistan when a group of women was paraded naked by influential men and a union council member as an act of revenge. It was, shocking, to say the least, and repugnant at all levels but back then, we didn’t have a gazillion TV channels or social media outlets to scream our indignant lungs out on—so we spoke of it amongst ourselves.

Today, if you do an online search for “naked women paraded in Pakistan” you’ll find scores of examples. Throw in “women punished as an act of revenge” and the list may be longer.

Take out Pakistan from the search, you’ll find the first few pages of your search are about incidents in the Subcontinent.

I’m reminded of the infamous Nawabpur incident because on Tuesday, a 50-year-old woman was paraded in a village north of the capital Islamabad after her sons were accused of sleeping with a neighbor’s wife.

You’re right to wonder if anything good comes out of Pakistan. It’s becoming harder for me to find the silver lining in incidents like this because the outrage, the activism, the screaming ourselves hoarse about changing laws all amounts to naught.

Outrage has lost its punch.

What does this say about a society that likes to strip women naked and humiliate them—but more importantly, their menfolk who are the ones it really wants to shame?

Why—when usually a man is at the core of the dispute the woman has to pay a price for—isn’t the man ever striped and paraded naked through the streets?

Because we attach notions of honor to a woman and because she is the sole guardian of honor, the vessel carrier of it, she is the one who needs to be attacked.

A boy has sex with a woman from a higher caste, he is accused of sodomy by the village and his sister is to be gang raped as a punishment for the crime. This happened to Mukhtaran Mai in Meerwala, Pakistan in 2004. Two years earlier, in different parts of the country, women were paraded naked as acts of punishment.

It’s incredible how one woman’s honor can be restored by defiling another.

Women today—and this isn’t specific to Pakistan—are used as pawns in acts of vengeance, no different to cattle being used as forms of payment. That the practice continues with no form of accountability whatsoever is truly abhorrent.

You’d think the Taliban and their ilk—the true protectors of Islam, naturally, and upholders of women’s honor—would take note of it and blow someone up (not that I’m egging them on) but sadly, women’s rights are at the way bottom of their priorities.

At the heart of the matter is the legal process, or in this case the lack thereof. Despite changes in women’s laws, the police rarely register complaints, the prosecution rarely does its job and the perpetrators of such crimes rarely get the punishment they are deserved.

It’s no wonder people get away with it.

Until people are made aware of repercussions of their disgraceful actions, nothing is going to change.

And there’s nothing honorable about that.

(Muna Khan, Editor of Al Arabiya English, can be reached at muna.khan@mbc.net)

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