Today there are a multitude of cases of violence against women. This means any abusive act that results in psychological, physical, mental, or sexual harm or suffering to women, including threats, blackmailing, deprivation of liberty etc. which occurs publicly or privately.
Legislation on violence against violence on women was debated and raised with the Introduction of Women Prevention and Protection Bill 2021. A sensitive issue indeed, but there is a need to debate it. The question that arises is: how many cases have been resolved and how many abusers are caught with the announcement of punishment? Are all of them registered cases? The answer to this is no.
It is a fact that many women in Pakistan are afraid to register their cases and spend their lives in a toxic environment for the fear of society reporting their issues openly. In this regard, it should not be hidden where a man shows his dominating attitude by force in form of an abusive act. Islam also doesn’t sanction the use of violence against women.
An extreme case of recent domestic violence has been reported in Rawalpindi by highly educated people for the demand of property share of a woman from her parents after 17 years of marriage. The woman was beaten mercilessly, abused mentally, physically, and verbally in front of her in-laws as a framed pre-planned drafted sketch which was heard by the victim. The man refused to have any financial assistance as per the girl’s affordability and demanded an expensive car with a bungalow in an expensive locality initially of his own choice. On the impossibility of doing this, the girl was given talaq twice. She was harassed continuously and threatened with the third talaq if she failed to bring her property share.
This whole pre-planned plan was heard from time to time by the wife which was being discussed amongst her husband sister-in-law, brothers in law and mother-in-law. Due to these demands, her husband was continuously being provoked to abuse her physically daily for many hours. The girl was kept in isolation without any interaction with her parents and without any provision of communication. In this case, greed and lust for money were the motivaing factors for the mistreatment of the woman.
The man was easily provoked by his close relations to get the property share from his wife; hence he treated her brutally. She was constantly told that she is a liability by her husband for using his facilities, living on his expenses, and eating his food. This begs the question: should a woman not be the responsibility of her husband? Why is a husband running away from his responsibilities of working hard for his family and earning by himself instead of asking for money from his wife’s parents? Is he not responsible for the maintenance of his family? It is not for lack of education because it is often apparent that one cannot change the mindset and values of even educated people.
The above incident gives rise to various questions to which answers should be provided by our society: the authorities, lawmakers, members of parliament and, last but not the least, men. Is a woman not safe in her husband’s house even after spending 17 years of married life? Why is she being dishonoured and disregarded on the non-fulfilment of unjust demands? Despite having grown-up kids, is a woman still not safe in her husband’s house? After 17 years of marriage, can a woman be pushed out of a house by her husband and in-laws at any time? After 17 years of marriage, does the wife have no importance in the eyes of the husband? Are property and jewellery more important than a woman? Why do women not feel protected in our society and their houses? Why does a woman remain an outsider throughout her life in her husband’s house? Why is there a feeling of fear among women of losing their home or husband most of the time?
The statistics of Pakistan Demographic and Health surveys (DHS) 2017-2018 say that 34% of married women have experienced spousal emotional, sexual, and physical violence; 26% is emotional violence while 23% is physical violence by the spouse. There are many cases of extreme violence such as the Noor Muqaddam killing, the attack by acid on a woman by her ex-husband, the assault of a woman at Minar-e-Pakistan by nearly 400 men and the rape of a mother and daughter by a rikshaw driver are only some of the recent prominent examples of violence against women. There are many cases are still not known or reported. If cases are reported, it happens many times that there are delays in the handling of the cases which leads to hardly any convictions.
In domestic abuse, Pakistan is ranked fifth according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation survey of 2018. The reasons behind domestic violence unleashed on women are context-specific and general. In Pakistani culture, social norms seem to be favourable towards women who phlegmatically bear marital abuse. On the contrary, women who seek legal procedures against violence are regarded warily. Besides, misrepresentation of religious teachings also leads to flawed mindsets.
There is a need to introduce legal bills for the rights and protection of women. In this regard, the Prevention and Protection Bill 2021 was debated in Parliament but since it has still not come into effect, there are many instances of criminals escaping accountability despite wreaking havoc on women. The time for change has come.
Dr. Saira Asad is associated with Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM), Malaysia as a researcher.