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Bhutto’s Assassination: Violence Against a Woman Leader

Jan 02, 2008 — Categories:

Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on Dec. 27, 2007, while campaigning to once again become Prime Minister. She had returned from exile in the fall to lead the efforts of the Pakistani Peoples Party and had been under threat of death ever since.

Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on Dec. 27, 2007, while campaigning to once again become Prime Minister. She had returned from exile in the fall to lead the efforts of the Pakistani Peoples Party and had been under threat of death ever since.

By all accounts, Bhutto represented the voice of moderation and modernity in the chaotic politics of Pakistan. She also offered the best hope for a restoration of democracy to this struggling Muslim country. The country has lost a leader but her family has lost a daughter, sister, wife and mother. Her murder and martyrdom strikes a painful blow to any who work for peace and reconciliation in South Asia and, indeed, around the world.

But aside from the political significance of this tragedy, we should also consider the subtext. Bhutto was first elected Prime Minister in 1988, the first elected Muslim woman to lead a Muslim country. Her death as a political figure is also her death as a woman political leader in a setting where women’s public leadership has not been encouraged. Her death is also an act of violence against women, violence against a Muslim woman whom some believed had stepped out of her prescribed role when she became a political leader.

Most women politicians around the world face this double jeopardy: opposition to her politics (whatever political persuasion) but also opposition and hostility to the fact that she is female and presumes to lead. Although we now have more and more women political leaders in elected office now, particularly in the West, the subtext of hostility towards them by those who cannot leave their sexism behind remains. This makes life particularly dangerous for any woman who seeks a position of public service to her country.

Bhutto's murder sends a threatening message to all women who seek to lead the effort for governments free from religious and gender oppression. We mourn the loss of this brave woman who refused to be silenced by those who seek to govern by the gun rather than by the ballot. We are all tragically diminished by her death.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute
www.faithtrustinstitute.org

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