Women in Pakistan face child marriage, domestic abuse, and 'honor killings'

A group called the Center for Investigative Reporting has produced a short film which is mostly about what it’s like to be a woman in Pakistan. Not surprisingly, it’s a terrible, dehumanizing experience. The film centers on three women who have stood up for themselves at significant risk. From the Atlantic:

Pakistan is routinely ranked as the third most dangerous country in the world for women. One in three married Pakistani women reports facing physical violence from her husband (although informal estimates are much higher); thousands of women are murdered each year by family members in “honor killings”; many more are tortured, mutilated, and abused inside their own homes. Child marriage, a long-held norm in the country, remains a serious concern. More than half of the women respondents in one province surveyed by the Bureau of Statisticsbelieve that it is acceptable for a husband to beat his wife under certain circumstances. These attitudes, the agency claims, are not much different in the rest of the country.

Women’s suffering isn’t relegated to the domestic sphere. In society, women are treated as second-class citizens. Female literacy rates are among the lowest in the world. For women who do work, discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace are rampant. An estimated 11 million children are currently engaged in forced labor, at least 40 percent of them young girls.

The film opens with media reports about honor killings, domestic abuse, and even community courts (called a jirga) which ordered women be burned alive. The rest of the film combines the stories of three Pakistani women, the first of whom, Tabassum Adnan, was a child bride. After 20 years of abuse, Adnan demanded her freedom. She now runs an all-female jirga which is apparently the first in Pakistan’s history. This jirga mostly deals with claims of domestic abuse. For daring to do this, Adnan has been threatened with death. In the film, she reads a letter sent to her which warns she’ll be killed if she doesn’t put on a veil and return to her home.

The second part of the film tells the story of Saima Sharif, an elite police officer who says she wants to prove women are the equal of men and who hopes to die as a “martyr” for her country (fighting terrorists). And yet, she says of women in Pakistan, “We aren’t free—we are limited to hiding behind veils.”

Nothing in this video will surprise people with a dim view of Pakistan but it’s one thing to know or intuit that things are terrible and another to hear the actual stories of people living through it.