By Sanniah Hassan
Considering that we are living in an age when everyone is trying to emancipate women left, right and center. It is extremely disconcerting and downright heartbreaking to come across the news of a girl being burnt alive for refusing the proposal of a man who was not only trying to manipulate her decision but also asking her to renounce her religion for him.
The girl in question, Asma Masih, of Christian faith, was in her early twenties. She was torched to death by Rizwan Gujjar, a Muslim, because she refused his marriage proposal on the basis of religious principles. Her concern was valid that she did not wish to convert to Islam (because no one should be forced to do so) yet she was not allowed to stand by her decision to marry or reject whoever she wanted.
The girl’s father accused Gujjar of dousing his daughter first with acid, and then, with kerosene oil before setting her on fire. According to the deceased’s father, Yaqoob Masih, she [Asma] worked as a domestic help at the house of Saeeduz Zaman in the Mohalla Pakpura area of Sialkot [a city approximately 130 kilometers from Lahore]. Masih claimed, “On April 17, my son and I went to Zaman’s house around to meet Asma and to inquire after the health of Zaman’s mother. We were sitting in a room when there was a knock on the front gate. Asma went out to see who has come. After some time, we heard her screaming in pain. Zaman, Maqsood and I rushed outside to see what had happened and saw the accused Rizwan Gujjar fleeing from the scene while Asma was engulfed in flames.”
He further claimed that an FIR [First Information Report] had been lodged against the accused in the Sialkot’s Civil Line Police. After receiving initial treatment at Sialkot Civil Hospital, Asma was transferred to Mayo Hospital, in Lahore for better care. She had suffered “80 percent burns on her face and body” claimed Masih demanding punishment for the accused.
This incident is one of many in which girls or their families are threatened, black-mailed and murdered or severely injured. Unfortunately, not many families get justice. This is not just an example of religious intolerance, it is also a violation of an innocents basic human rights. No one should be allowed to deny another the right to say no whether it be a man or a woman. No relation should have the right to manipulate another person’s will. Why is it such a crime to say no? Why is it that when a woman says no the male ego is wounded so badly that they resort to attacking/hurting women? Women should have the right to say no, to reject, and they should be offered support and protection for showing great courage by doing so.
Perhaps it is time that we stand up against gender inequality and religious intolerance to ensure such accidents are prevented.