iolence against women continues unabated in every continent, country and culture, an obstacle to achieving equality, development and peace as well as the fulfilment of women’s human rights. The promise of the Sustainable Development Goals to leave no one behind cannot be fulfilled without putting an end to violence against women. Support and solidarity in attaining women’s rights is a key to ending violence against them. It remains the most persistent human rights violation around the world. Estimates published by the World Health Organisation indicate that globally about 30 percent of women have been subjected to either sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Violence against women is preventable. The health sector has an important role to play in providing comprehensive healthcare to women subjected to violence and as an entry point for referring women to other support services they may need.
The United Nations (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is an occasion for governments, international organisations and non-governmental organisations to raise public awareness of these issues. This day has been observed on November 25 each year since 2000 throughout the world, including Pakistan. The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence is an international campaign originating from the dates November 25 - International Day against Violence against Women - and December 10 - International Human Rights Day - in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasise that such violence is a violation of human rights.
The theme for the year is Activism to Eliminate Violence against Women and Girls. The day emphasises raising awareness that women around the world are subject to rape, domestic and other forms of violence and there is a need to highlight the scale and true nature of the issue.
Violence against women tends to increase in any emergency, including epidemics. Stress, disruption of social and protective networks, increased economic hardship and decreased access to services can aggravate the risk of women suffering violence. UN-Women report The Shadow Pandemic: Violence against Women during Covid-19 reveals that since the outbreak of Covid-19, data and reports have shown that all types of violence against women, particularly domestic violence, intensified. Socio-economic stressors such as employment and external stressors such as food insecurity and family relations have a significant impact, not only on experiences of violence or feelings of safety but also on women’s overall well-being.
Violence against women is a global problem and not limited to a specific group of women in society. Significantly, immigrant and aboriginal women are further marginalised due to ongoing racism, which contributes to violence and is internalised by marginalised people impeding their social and personal power. Poverty, isolation from family and friends, language difficulties and homelessness also contribute to the victimisation of the most vulnerable women in society. In a male-dominant society, male privilege contributes to it.
An estimated 5,000 women die a year from domestic violence. Thousands are hurt or disabled. Violence against women is rooted in unequal power relationships between men and women.
The constitution of Pakistan clearly states that no person should be discriminated against on the basis of their sex alone. The government recognises that violence against women is a form of discrimination based on sex and that this is against the basic fundamentals of the constitution. National and Provisional Assemblies have passed various laws to address different types of violence against women and protect their rights. As a signatory of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Pakistan is expected to progress towards eliminating discrimination with regard to acquiring and owning property and recognising the equality of citizens as a fundamental right. Challenges in implementing these measures remain. Many women still lack access to free or affordable essential services in health, police, justice and social support to ensure their safety, protection and recovery.
The World Economic Forum states that violence against women in Pakistan includes bride burning, dowry death, honour killings, infanticide and killing the mother for giving birth to a baby girl. An estimated 5,000 women die a year from domestic violence. Thousands are hurt or disabled. Violence against women is rooted in unequal power relationships between men and women in a society. In a broader context, structural relationships of inequality in politics, faith, media and discriminatory cultural norms perpetuate violence against women.
Pakistan has experienced physical violence, and between 70 percent and 90 percent of married women have experienced abuse from their spouses at some time in their lives.
A sharp increase in incidents of violence against women has been witnessed, particularly sexual assault, across the country during the last three years. Over 63,367 cases of gender-based crimes were reported; 3,987 women were killed, and more than 10,500 women became victims of sexual violence in the previous year. According to the statistics, over 3,987 women were murdered across the country from 2019 to 2021 and 10,517 cases of rape were registered.
This situation is exacerbated in emergencies where violence is known to increase due to the breakdown of social structures and protective mechanisms. The weakening of norms regulating social behaviour and traditional social systems have engendered the separation of family members and increased male responsibility for the distribution of goods. As the world changes, gender-based violence is no longer unavoidable. It can and must be prevented. Stopping this violence starts with believing survivors and adopting inclusive and comprehensive approaches that challenge the root causes, transforming harmful social norms and empowering women.
Violence, as a key factor, locks many women into poverty. It limits women’s choices and their ability to access education, earn a living and participate in political and public life. Poverty exposes them to further violence and a lack of options when violence occurs.
The writer is a playwright and freelance journalist and can be reached at pashajaved1gmail.com and his blogging site: soulandland.com