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Caste in Pakistan: The Elephant in the Room

Posted in Pakistan with tags , , on August 25, 2009 by Umer

by

Shahbano Aliani

A pregnant woman from a remote rural village in Tharparkar goes to a private hospital in Hyderabad. The medical staff refuse to attend to her, saying they do not want to pollute their instruments and dirty their hands. Feeling humiliated and angry, she returns to her village without having received the services she needed.

A 20 year old woman from Peshawar is brutally murdered by her brothers and father for attempting to marry outside the biradari and bringing shame to the family honour.

A young Kolhi girl is abducted while working in the cotton fields of a landlord outside Mirpurkhas. She is forced to convert to Islam and marry her abductor. The police refuse to register a case and her family is advised to remain silent for the sake of their own safety.

In a village in Southern Punjab, a young boy from a “lower-caste” is accused of dishonouring the “high caste” tribe by having an affair with one of their women. The village panchayat orders the gang rape of the boy’s sister by the “high caste’ men so that they may restore the honour of their tribe.

These stories have a familiar ring. Variants occur with alarming regularity in Pakistan; some covered by the media, but most covered up by the silence, fear and helplessness of the victims; and the indifference of the rest of society.

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