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No Pakistani women vote in village over fear of divorce

The photo, taken on July 7, 2018, shows Bismillah Noor, left, a Pakistani social worker and member of district council, sitting next to local villagers in Mohri Pur, some 60 kilometers from Multan, a central city in the southern province of Punjab. (Photo by AFP)

Pakistani women who had pledged to defy men in their village by voting for the first time ultimately did not exercise their democratic right in Wednesday's election, citing intimidation by their husbands.

Male elders banned females from voting in Mohri Pur, some 60 kilometers (35 miles) from the central Pakistan city of Multan, and the women have obeyed ever since.

This year many had vowed to cast a ballot following changes to Pakistan's election laws and amid shifting attitudes towards women in parts of the deeply patriarchal South Asian country.

Some 3,200 women were listed on the electoral register in Mohri Pur -- but not one voted, according to election officials and an AFP journalist at the village's sole polling station.

"We have threats from our husbands that they will divorce us if we cast our vote," 25-year-old Tanya Bibi told AFP as she walked past the polling station, without going in.

Around 8,000 men were registered to vote in the village. Large queues of them, each clutching identity cards, formed at the polling station, located in a school.

Pakistani villagers enter a polling station to cast their vote during general elections in Mohri Pur, some 60 kilometers from the central city of Multan, July 25, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

"We are here to cast our ballots, but our women didn't cast their votes because it is our old tradition which we have been preserving," Muhammad Shamsher told AFP.

Bismillah Iram, from a local NGO, said announcements were made from the village mosque warning that women should not come to the polling station.

Elders in Mohri Pur, which is located in Punjab province, banned women from voting decades ago, claiming that visiting a public polling booth would "dishonor" them.

So-called "honor" describes a patriarchal code across South Asia that often seeks to justify the murder and oppression of women who defy conservative traditions by acts such as choosing their own husband, or working outside the home.

Women in Mohri Pur told AFP recently that they had tried to vote in previous elections but had been prevented.

In 2015, one woman, Fouzia Talib, became the only one in the village to vote in local elections. She was ostracized.

(Source: AFP)

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