Safdar Ali Safdar
Gender based violence is deeply rooted in regions like South Asia even today. Stereotypes and discrimination against women gets even more dangerous and terrifying in tribal or semi-tribal societies, like that of Gilgit – Baltistan. Today, the women in GB are faced with a plethora of problems in their day to day life, leading to the drastic and growing trend of suicide.
Gilgit – Baltistan could be a paradise on earth for its pure scenic beauty, cultural diversity and natural resources, but the region has shown the tendency of being a dangerous place for women. A majority of women are trapped in their traditional roles, like domestic work, agricultural activities and caring for children, spouses and parents or in-laws. Their daily workload is heavier than that carried out by men but at the same time their work it is invisible, poorly recorded and unacknowledged. Women are expected to rigorously follow the social, religious and cultural traditions. If a woman tries to break the cycle of discrimination, she might face physical and psychological violence by her first-degree relatives like father, brother and husband.
In addition, second-degree relatives, for instance uncles and male cousins, frequently have the right to deprive her of her liberty or threaten her. It often happens that women are beaten if they try to express themselves freely, or murdered in the name of honor, or burned to death under the pretence of an accident.
Ghizer is one of the District of Gilgit Baltistan where almost 369 women have been committed suicide since 2005, due to family conflicts and other domestic problems. These cases have mostly happened among literate ladies in Yasin valley, Ishkoman, Gupis and Ponial.
The government noticed only few of the suicide cases which are registered in the polices stations. Many of these cases of ‘suicide’ have , in reality, been proven as murders, while some bodies have not been handed over to the police for autopsy. Majority of the ‘suicides’, according to media reports, are being committed by school/college going students. It is imperative for all of us to speak up and take action against such terrifying crimes of violence against women.
The increasing incidents of suicide by women in the Ghizer district is a big cause of concern and more so when all political, administrative and social organizations including NGOs remain a silent spectator to the issue. No one has tried to provide tangible and sustained social, moral, technical and legal assistance to the women to eliminate violence against them by imparting knowledge and to aware communities about changing role of women in family and contemporary context and to create space for the women to demonstrate their abilities for the benefit of their family as well as for the whole society.
Since the media is highlighting the issues of women, they must also telecast follow up stories of the affected families. So public may come to know what sort of life is lived by the women in this area. When messes will come to know how the families suffer, it will help to stop the vicious trend of suicide and/or murders disguised as suicide.
On the other hand, there is a need to work on to ground, to start a movement to strengthen the faith of the women and social reforms to be initiated in this regard. The civil society organizations and government needs to initiate programs that could bring change for women by going into the depth of the issue to find out whether cases of murder are not being termed suicide to escape the law.
The writer is a Gilgit based working journalist.