It is common to see newspapers and media reporting rape, sexual violence, or public harassment cases against women in Pakistan. Recently, on the eve of the independence day of Pakistan, two prominent harassment cases; Minar-e-Pakistan and Rickshaw incidents came into the limelight. Moreover, other despicable and horrific incidents like Usman Mirza harassing a girl with his gang, and Zahir Jaffer torturing a woman to death are also reported. With such cases surfacing, a question arises; are women safe in Pakistan? In other words, is Pakistan safe for women? We will try to address these questions in toto.
NOTE: The Minar-e-Pakistan incident was a publicity stunt planned by the so-called victim.
Rape, violence, and harassment cases occur in almost every part of the world. So, the subject of discussion should be; is the world a safe place for women? Anyhow, let’s be specific to Pakistan.
Based on different studies, and reports, we will statistically analyze Pakistan’s status w.r.t women’s safety.
According to Reuters, a survey conducted by global experts has enlisted India as the world’s most dangerous country for women. The same survey has placed Pakistan in the sixth position just 3 positions above the United States.
According to the studies based upon the reported rape cases in the countries; India ranks at 12th, Pakistan ranks at 13th position, China in 14th, and Japan and the USA on 15th and 16th position in the list of countries with the highest rape crimes.
In 2019, Forbes had published an article that enlists the ’20 Most Dangerous Places for Women Travelers’. The countries enlisted were; South Africa (being the topmost dangerous), Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Iran, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Morocco, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Argentina, Chile, Cambodia, Bahrain, Tunisia, United States, and Ukraine. Nowhere is Pakistan listed in the report.
These rankings show that Pakistan is performing far better in providing safety to its women than most of the leading countries in the world.
Factual Analysis | Experiences of Foreign Female Travel Vloggers in Pakistan
Apart from the above statistics, the personal experiences of foreign travelers and vloggers also carry some weightage.
It is a globally acknowledged fact that Pakistan is largely becoming the world’s topmost tourist destination for men as well as women. To corroborate this claim, we will highlight two prominent female solo travelers’ experiences in Pakistan; who have traveled the length and breadth of Pakistan alone; namely Eva Zu Beck (Polish Travel Vlogger) and Rosie Gabrielle (A Canadian Girl).
Let’s ask Eva Zu Beck about her own experiences in Pakistan. Let’s see how would she answer our question, is Pakistan safe for women?
So, she has found Pakistan entirely safe being a solo female tourist/traveler.
That’s quite interesting.
So now, let’s see Rosie Gabrielle‘s experiences in Pakistan.
These foreigners have spent most of their nights camping at different sites. They rarely stayed at hotels. However, these female travelers reported no single experience of sexual or public harassment throughout their stay in Pakistan.
Eva Zu Beck has traveled from north to south in Pakistan alone. She has met with people belonging to different regions. Both the vloggers have wandered in bazaars alone in the main cities. According to them, Pakistani people are very loving, caring, and hospitable.
If these solo female travelers didn’t report a single incident of harassment; how come Pakistani would maltreat their own women?
Why is Pakistan Considered Unsafe for Women? What Goes Wrong?
Pakistan is a safer place for women than many of the Western and Asian countries like the USA, India, etc. Rape and harassment cases are lower in Pakistan. Being so, still, it is considered to be unsafe for women. Where does the problem lie?
Media’s Biased Reporting
First and foremost, in Pakistan, such cases; even though they are quite infinitesimal as compared to the cases in other parts of the world, get more traction in media. The superfluous highlighting and reporting of these cases in Pakistan by Pakistani and foreign media; while treating them lightly when similar cases occur in other countries cause problems.
The media never highlights the positive side of Pakistan. It would never shed light on what foreigners (females) have to say about Pakistan. Similarly, it would never show the world the respectful status that Islam and Pakistani culture have accorded to women.
Nobody is denying the violence, rape, and harassment cases that occur in the country. But, why doesn’t the media talk about the public reaction in Pakistan to these incidents? Does Pakistan society as a whole accept such treatment to women?
In reality, in the west, such incidents do not receive the required public backlash. But in Pakistan, people do not sit silently unless justice is served. Neither the religion (Islam) nor the culture in Pakistan permits the maltreatment of women. Still, foreign media portrays Pakistan as an unsafe place for women.
The reality is; portraying Pakistan as unsafe is a part of propaganda to spoil its soft image in the world.
On August 03, 2021, The Diplomat has published an article entitled, How Pakistan Failed Its Women. In the article, the author has written;
In a Thomas Reuters Foundation poll in 2018, Pakistan was ranked as the sixth-most dangerous country for women.
By citing the poll results, the author has just tried to tarnish the image of Pakistan. He tactfully avoided mentioning that the same poll has placed India in the top position as the world’s most dangerous country for women. Moreover, it has placed the USA as the 10th most dangerous country for women in the ranking.
Thus, based on the poll’s results; the author Nushmeya Sukhera should have discussed ‘How India Failed Its Women’ rather than writing on Pakistan.
So, this biased reporting by the world’s leading media outlets has played the most part in tarnishing the image of Pakistan w.r.t its women’s safety.
Administrative Issues in Pakistan
Another important aspect that somehow makes the situation unideal for women is the administrative drawbacks. Pakistani administrative setup, judicial and executive branches somewhat lag in addressing women’s issues; in providing swift and speedy justice to downtrodden and oppressed women; or in lifting them up by providing education and jobs, etc.
With these drawbacks in place, still, women are more secure in Pakistan than in most of the countries. For example, in Pakistan, the family system is intact, women are regarded with respect and provided special status. Men are responsible to earn and provide all the basic needs and requirements to women in their families.
In short, the cultural norms and values of Pakistani society place women in high regard.
Government Efforts to Protect Women in Pakistan
In the past, governments have passed various acts to protect women in the public sphere. However, domestic violence that falls in the private sphere has remained largely unaddressed.
In an effort to end domestic abuse, the government has launched a 1099 helpline in November 2020 to end violence against women even in the private sphere.
To protect women in the public sphere, different acts have been passed. For example:
Protection of Women Act, 2006
The act makes rape a criminal offense. The offense is punishable with death or imprisonment for not less than 10 years.
The Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010
As the name shows, this act serves to protect women or prevent harassment at the workplace.
Moreover, the government has also amended section 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) in 2010. Under the amended section 509, insulting the modesty of women and sexually harassing them is a crime. As a punishment, the perpetrator would be imprisoned for up to 3 years; or maybe fined up to 5 lac rupees; or both.
The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act, 2011
This act serves to prevent acid-throwing crimes against women with strict punishments. The act makes acid attack an offense with punishments like imprisonment for up to 14 years and a fine of rupees 1 million.
Apart from the acts, the police department introduces special units and helplines for women’s protection. For example, Islamabad Police has established a Gender Protection Unit & helpline 8090 for women. This unit and helpline number serve to protect women from harassment.
Still, at present, efforts are underway to make Pakistan more secure for women.
To conclude, based on the above facts and figures, one can conclude that women in Pakistan are safer than any other country in the world. Government efforts, cultural values, and public sentiments all go in tandem to protect women in Pakistan.
Although there are a few loopholes in the judicial system of Pakistan; yet the cases of violence and harassment when reported are efficiently responded to.
So, let’s not just highlight how women are maltreated; also highlight how many women are maltreated. The percentage of women that have experienced violence and harassment would definitely be much less in Pakistan than in other countries.
Similarly, we should also highlight the public outrage and government reaction when such cases come into the limelight.
In short; yes! Pakistan is a safe country for women.