The fatal sin of a singing woman

6 Jun

When the United States first attacked Afghanistan, it claimed that one of its dominant reasons for entering the country was to assist in efforts to liberate Afghani women suffering under massive Talibani prohibitions, oppression and violence. Throughout the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan it has relied on its friend and ally, Pakistan.

But how different is the official and unofficial treatment of women in Pakistan from the obstacles, subservience, religious and tribal laws, sexual violence and prohibitions faced by women in Afghanistan?                                                                               Last  month 5 women and 2 men were sentenced to death (via throat slit) by a Muslim cleric in rural Pakistan. The offense: potentially singing and dancing together at a wedding. I write “potentially,” because the wedding occurred 3 years ago, and the video has only recently appeared, rendering its provenence suspicious.

A cursory internet search finds short stories concerning the death sentence, but highly conflicting reports as to whether the women have been killed or not (the men reportedly escaped). The cleric has since been brought into police custody, his authority being officially questioned.

This is not a rare occurence: the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan asserts that at least 943 women and girls were killed last year as a result of “dishonoring” their family.

Lawyer Asma Jahangir, founder of the Human Rights Commission, the first woman to lead the Supreme Court Bar Association, and a fierce fighter against corruption and human rights violations for thirty years now, has become increasingly endangered by tacitly sanctioned government-run military and intelligence groups seeking to assassinate her:                                                   

The Human Rights Watch report on Pakistan cites an increasing amount of terror, violence and intimidation against its women: 

Honor killings, child marriage, acid attacks, lack of access to education, sexual assault by tribal edict: all remain constant and worrying factors for the female Pakistani population. According to the United Nation’s WomenWatch, in 2012 the Pakistani government approved the National Commission on the Status of Women Bill and the Acid Control and Acid Prevention Act, but without proper infrastructure, funding, cultural education and general acceptance how can measures such as these stand against tribal courts and women-hating edicts? And, given the United States’ increasing number of unapproved drone and military attacks, it is unlikely that the Pakistani government would listen to U. S. advice on the treatment of its female population. But then again, I haven’t heard any U. S. government or military official comment on such matters anyway.

P.S. As of the 7th, 2 of the women have been located by human rights activists. And while the 2 men have reappeared in court stating some of the women were killed, the 2 located women claim all are alive.


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