11/26/2014, 00.00
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Pregnant Christian women forced to parade naked for “not working well”

The 28-year-old woman lost the baby after the trauma. Christian and Muslims activists demand laws and protection for women. In Pakistan, "there is a widespread tolerance” of gender violence.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - A 28-year-old pregnant Christian woman in Pakistan was paraded naked for not working up to the expectation of her employer. The victim - who has lost her child in the violent attack - is a resident of the Christian colony of Rana Town, in the district of Sheikhupura in Punjab province (the most populous of Pakistan). She worked as a maid and, according to reports, was forced to walk without naked for at least 30 minutes because she failed to satisfy the demands of  her employers. The story only emerged yesterday, coinciding with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

One of her employer's sons, in the company of four friends, dragged the 28-year old pregnant women from the house and ripped off her clothes and abandoned her naked, on a street corner, where an old woman gave her some clothes to cover herself. Her relatives accompanied her to the hospital for tests to check on the welfare of her unborn child, however doctors found that she was miscarrying and were unable to save the child.

"I was two months pregnant - says the woman, already the mother of four children - and I lost my baby in the incident. Police are not arresting the accused. I will commit suicide if I am not given justice". Her husband says that investigators have opened an investigation against Mobin Gondal and his four accomplices, but have not applied the law against acts of terrorism as demanded by the victim.

Meanwhile, yesterday in Faisalabad a rally was held to celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, organized by the Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (Awam) and Pakistan Gender Coalition (PGC). The participants appealed to the government to approve a law against domestic violence, forced conversions and crimes perpetrated by - and with the endorsement of - the state apparatus.

The Christian lawyer Hashmat Barkat said that "women of religious minorities [as the above story confirms, ed] are easy targets". Nazia Sardar, Awam director, points the finger at "the exploitation of labor" without rights or protection. The activist Naseem Anthony blames "a conservative, patriarchal society," which is "at the base of domestic violence", because they are "accepted as an integral part of the culture of Pakistan".  This is echoed by a Muslim activist for women's rights Amna Ehsan, who adds "there is a general tolerance of gender violence."

With a population of more than 180 million people (97 per cent Muslim), Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, the second largest Muslim nation after Indonesia.

About 80 per cent of Muslims are Sunni, whilst Shias are 20 per cent. Hindus are 1.85 per cent, followed by Christians (1.6 per cent) and Sikhs (0.04 per cent).

Scores of violent incidents have occurred in recent years, against entire communities (Gojra in 2009, and Joseph Colony, Lahore, in March 2013), places of worship (Peshawar, September last year) and individuals ( Sawan Masih, Asia Bibi, Rimsha Masih and Robert Fanish Masih, who died in prison), often perpetrated under the pretext of the country's blasphemy laws.

(Shafique Khokhar collaborated)



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