Every cut is a lie. It’s never that way. Those two shots were never next to each other in time that way. But you’re telling a lie in order to tell the truth. –Wolf Koenig.
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A survey conducted by UK based Thompson Reuters Foundation ranks Afghanistan, Congo, Pakistan, India and Somalia the five most dangerous countries for women to live in. In these countries basic human rights are systematically denied to women. Though this might be the harsh reality for the majority of the women in these countries, the intent of the series of articles in Real Talkies, on each one of these nations is to showcase possibilities. The focus will be on the pioneers in these countries who break these concrete barriers and let the little girls dream, aspire and believe that anything is possible in their lives.
In the western media, besides the attention Pakistan received for Bin Laden’s raids, the unprecedented floods, the deadly earthquakes, the nuclear weapon(s); it is also infamous for the status of women and honor killings. In some ways, tt is very unfair, I can imagine what it feels like to be a Pakistani women for documentary filmmakers like Sabila Sumar while reading these statistics. I mean India is not far behind, it is fourth on the list, we have the dubious distinctions of getting rid of our girls even before they are born. The statistics are real and reflect the ground reality but it is also true that a large section of the women in the both the nations do exercise free choice, are cherished and adored by their family and live very successful lives.
Therefore, it is best to start talking about the status of women in Pakistan from the perspective of women like me, who do question the status quo in our country, who got to do anything we wanted (albeit with our own struggles).
A PLACE UNDER THE HEAVENS (2003)
An insightful documentary by Sabila Sumar who was born and raised during secular and liberal times in Pakistan. In this film, she struggles to comprehend and understand the tension between liberal and fundamentalist forces that shape the life of contemporary Pakistan. Granted this is the perspective of educated and affluent women in Pakistan who have the options and means to be liberal/fundamental/anything between, unlike the vast majority of Pakistani women yet it is thought provoking and worth a look.
Around the time when Sabila was editing her film, in 2002, Mukhtaran Bibi (or Mukhta Mai) was gang raped by a group of men and paraded in Meerwala, Pakistan. Her brother apparently had a relationship with a girl from a higher caste and to even the score, Mai was raped. Overwhelmed by shame she initially tried to commit suicide but with nothing more to loose, she eventually decided enough was enough and instead of suffering in silence she went public with her story. Her journey resulted in the building of two schools and a crisis center for women in her village.
While the film’s trailer is overly dramatic and the film played extensively world wide and received rave reviews and an autobiography of Mukhtar is popular too, life for her is still pretty dangerous.
On April 21, 2011,Pakistani’s court acquitted suspects in Mukhtaran Mai’s case. This verdict puts Mukhtaran Mai in even greater danger but she has vowed not to shut down her school. The Supreme Court’s decision shocked and disappointed many Pakistanis especially human rights activists. It is a major setback in the broader struggle to end violence agains women in Pakistan.
An article about the status of women in Pakistan has to include Benazir Bhutto. Bhutto is a two hour documentary about the first woman to lead a muslim nation. The film encapsulates the life of Benazir, her rise to power and her eventual assassination, in the context of Pakistan’s troubled history and its corrupt-scandal filled political environment.
In 1965 Fatima Jinnah, sister of Mohammed Ali Jinnah was the first muslim woman to contest for presidency. Begum Shaista Ikramullah was the first woman elected member of the constituent assembly of Pakistan. Beguam Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan was the founder of All Pakistan Women’s association and Begum Nusrat Bhutto led the pakistani delegation to the UN’s first women’s conference in 1975.
Political participation and presence of women in political parties and in the political and legal structure in the local, provincial and national levels remains insignificant. There are very few people like Mukhtar who step forward to advocate and fight for justice and few women in positions of power to support the righteous cause of women and 9 years after her rape, her rapist were acquitted.
Does this verdict reinforce to the women in Pakistan that it is better to suffer in silence as at the end of the justice will not be served? or Thank God for Mukhtar, this issue is up for debate and discussion!
[…] survey conducted by UK based Thompson Reuters Foundation ranks Afghanistan, Congo, Pakistan, India and Somalia the five most dangerous countries for women to live in. In these countries basic […]