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Women in Sindh Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Aftab Khan, United Arab Emirates Jul 2, 2004
Human Rights   Short Stories
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By nature, Sindhis are a very loving, polite & generous nation. They love their land, home and fields and, in most cases, do not want to leave Sindh. The roles that women take on in society are very important: they are mothers, sisters and wives. But, too often, being a woman in the Sindhi society is a thankless task, and often very dangerous.

In Sindh, patriarchal customs of control over women include the institutionalization of extremely restrictive codes of behaviour for women, a practice of rigid gender segregation, specific forms of family and kinship, and a powerful ideology linking family honour to female virtue. Men are entrusted with safeguarding this family honour through their control over female family members, controlling, specifically, the female body, both in terms of sexuality and its reproductive ability. Thus, when a woman’s behaviour is seen to threaten the patriarchal order, it is her body that is punished with beating, burnings, sexual abuse, and murder in the name of “honour.”

Women in Sindh are particularly handicapped by the entrenched feudal system in rural Sindhi society, religious fundamentalists, and the government, which is run primarily by members of the ruling feudal caste. There are several factors that impede the development of women in Sindh, including a very low legal status women hold, as well as the lack of political power and will to change the gender disparity. The status of women reinforced by most family structures is compounded by a general acceptance of this low status by a majority of women who cannot even imagine the concept of equal rights. Thus women continue to perform three distinct duties - reproductive, productive, and community management - and are most often treated quite poorly throughout.

Women contribute substantially to the agricultural sector, often as part of family labour, yet the diversity and importance of women’s roles in rural development is not yet recognized. In the rural areas of Sindh, women normally work a 16-hour work day including household and field duties, as well as fetching drinking water and fuel for cooking. Their subordinate position limits their access to and control over resources and benefits. Women's performance of domestic work, especially the care of children within the home, both furthers their dependence and subordination within marriage (since they are the men who actually benefit from this work) and also weakens their position within the labour market, contributing to their low wages and poor conditions as wage workers.

Sindh belongs to a part of the world where woman's status is disadvantaged by systemic injustice. Human development indicators such as sex ratio, literacy levels, educational attainment and labour force participation are abysmally low while the statistics for maternal mortality and morbidity, fertility and crimes against women are extremely high. Sindhi males, customarily, are very suspicious & mistrustful of their sisters and wives especially. It is very normal for a man to prohibit a stranger from talking to his sister or wife, and vice versa. In either scenario, however, it tends to be the woman who is then punished for the shame. However primitive it may sound – however primitive it is - it is very easy for a Sindhi to declare his sister, daughter or wife as shameful, and thus opt to kill her via the practice of Karo Kari, which translates literally as Black Black, and translates figuratively into Honour Killing. There is very an open secret that whenever there is a monetary, land, property related or other petty dispute, many unscrupulous persons use their sisters, wives, mothers or even daughters as tools to have the upper hand in the settlement of the dispute. These persons first kill their daughter, mother or sister on pretext of having illicit relations with the person with whom they have some dispute, and then announce to kill that person to protect his and his family's honour. The alleged guilty person ultimately settles the dispute on the term and condition of the killer to save his skin. The true story of that case happened in the city of Sanghar ten years ago when one of the advisor, a lawyer by profession, and then Sindh Chief Minister killed his brothers widow and then married her only surviving daughter to his son so he could easily get hold of his late brother's share in family property. The law does not protect women from this, nor does it persecute the male murderers.

It is also a common practice in Sindh to marry one's daughter to inanimate and holy objects, like the Quran, or even a tree, for example. The marriage with Quran is called "haque bakhish" means "with draw from the right to marry”. This cruel tradition runs usually in families of agrarian landed aristocracy of Sindh. The main purpose behind this inhuman act is to avoid the transfer of land property out of family hands at the time of marriage of their daughter or sister. The male members of family force the girls to have marriage with "Holy book" and withdraw from the right to marry. One of our former Prime Ministers and at the present moment one of the leaders of the opposition party from Sindh (who's party is known for it's democratic credentials) had forced their sisters to follow this cruel tradition so that they could have save there agricultural land. As well, it is not uncommon to arrange a marriage between a mature woman and a 12 year-old boy, or a young girl and an old man.

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Writer Profile
Aftab Khan

25 years old Electronics & Computer System Engineer by Education and an activist of Human rights and Women Rights. Presently living in exile in Sweden since october 2003 due to the involvment in a campaign against the injustice in the society and undemocratic Military Government in Pakistan
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