Several Church-run seminars highlighted the plight of women to mark International Women’s Day around the country yesterday. Speakers urged participants, mostly Christian women, to raise their voices against prejudice and discrimination in a male Muslim-dominated society.
“The sufferings of minority women seem unending. Many Christian housemaids are raped and killed and their families get no justice. The situation gives little reason and hope to celebrate,” said Sister Tomasina Rehmat.
She was addressing about 150 participants at a seminar in Karachi, Sindh province. The major Religious superiors’ justice and peace commission organized the event titled Equal Rights for Women to ensure Social Prosperity yesterday.
A group of nuns kicked off the program with a song highlighting the importance of women in family life. The participants sang religious songs in local languages and prayed for strength.
Later, Sister Rehmat told UCA News about the kidnapping of Hindu women and their “conversions” as a major concern in the province.
“In Sindh province, Hindu women work in a feudal society for more than 12 hours every day. Still, their salaries are handed over to their male family members. These landless peasants work as bonded laborers and their women are often molested,” she said.
Father Inayat Bernard, executive secretary Caritas Pakistan Lahore, agrees. “Women in interior Sindh are reported to have sold their children for 8,000 rupees (US$ 95.23) due to poverty. Hindu and Christian women are more vulnerable for being women and belonging to a religious minority,” he said.
Father Bernard was speaking to UCA News on the sidelines of a Women’s Day program at the Caritas building in Lahore. The event saw Caritas personnel helping women working in factories and living among villagers, who oppose education for women, to be aware of their rights.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2009, Pakistan is at the bottom of the ranking among Asian countries, and placed 132 out of 134 countries. Its ranking was 127 in 2008.
The report says physical and sexual violence, honor killings, forced marriages and structural inequalities make Pakistan one of the worst countries in the world in terms of the gender gap.