In flooded Pak village, men won’t let women to be evacuated

Wednesday 21st September 2022 06:58 EDT

Basti Ahmad Din (Pakistan): The 400 residents of Basti Ahmad Din, a tiny Pakistani village left surrounded by floodwater after severe monsoon rains, are facing starvation and disease as they refused pleas to evacuate. Leaving for a relief camp would mean the women of the village mingling with men outside their families, and that would violate their “honour”.

The women of Basti Ahmad Din do not get a say. “It is up to the village elders to decide,” said Shireen Bibi, about the 90 homes of this village in Punjab province being destroyed. The cotton crops are rotting in flooded fields, and the dirt road that once connected to the nearest city is under 10 feet of water, worryingly low amounts of food left, and they have decided to pool and ration whatever wheat and grain they managed to salvage after the rains.

Numerous volunteers have pleaded with the residents to leave for safety, to no avail. “We are Baloch. Baloch don’t allow their women to go out,” said resident Muhammad Amir. “The Baloch would rather starve and make do than let their families go out.”

In many parts of Pakistan, women live under a strict system of so-called honour. Women can even be killed for bringing “shame” by interacting with men or marrying someone they, rather than their families, choose. And in a disaster situation such as the floods in Pakistan, this code can completely cut off women and girls from basic needs such as food and medical care.

The village elders, all men, say it is only acceptable for women to leave in “emergency” situations such as ill health. Natural disasters do not count, and one elder named Mureed Hussain said they did not evacuate during the last catastrophic floods in 2010.

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