Losing a parent at an early age is devastating for a young child but having to witness them being brutally murdered is something that will traumatise them for a lifetime. In a shocking incident last month, mother of six children was killed and boiled in a cauldron allegedly by her husband in a neighbourhood in Karachi.
It was the woman’s 15-year-old daughter who mustered up the courage to call the police – an extraordinary thing considering the child had just witnessed her mother’s gruesome death at the hands of her father. And it will take years of therapy for the children to make sense of the harrowing incident let alone heal from it, provided that these children get therapy.
Sustainable Social Development Organization’s Monthly Edition Tracking reveals the number of cases that were reported in the media in June 2022. Cases of violence against women stand at 100 incidents of domestic violence – 68 in Punjab; 17 in Sindh, 13 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and 2 in Islamabad. Furthermore, 112 cases of physical assault were reported from across the country, with Punjab with the highest cases at 66 and Balochistan with no cases. Although the Human Rights Council of Baluchistan (HRCB) reported 33 women killed and 30 disappearances only in June 2022. 91 women were raped; seven were harassed at work and seven were killed in the name of ‘honour’. However, in May 2022, the total crimes against women were lower with 23 domestic violence cases and violence against women was 49. All of these numbers only represents data that has been reported, there is no count for how many cases of violence against women are going unreported on a daily basis.
When it comes to intimate partner violence particularly, the chain of violence is not just limited to two people, in fact traumatises and ruins the future of innocent children.
“This is unlike any other case of abuse and murder as it was committed in front of the children. The couple’s 15-year-old daughter was also witnessing the crime but naturally couldn’t do anything to stop her father,” analyses Kausar Perveen, an Associate Professor at Department of Sociology, University of Karachi. “These six children are psychologically scarred and are doomed to live with memories of the murder in which the murderer their own father. It won’t be surprising if this incident eventually compels them to internalise issues and they eventually have aggressive tendencies towards their intimate partners.”
According to Perveen, these six children will grow up to become six families and there are strong possibilities that the children will manifest the same behaviour as their father’s if he is not rightfully punished for the crime or gets away with it. This will give them a wrong message and the law would not mean much to them.
There is substantial evidence indicating that children who witness domestic violence (DV) have psychosocial maladaptation that is associated with demonstrable changes in the anatomic and physiological make up of their central nervous system. “It is possible that the children may become distant from others or have difficulty forming relationships or experience emotions normally. If these children don’t get proper support they can become quite harmful to society. It is up to us to find ways to provide the children an environment to heal and cope with their trauma,” opines Dr Perveen.
The actual motive behind the incident is yet to be ascertained; however, it has been reported that the husband allegedly forced his wife into having illicit relations and killed her after she refused to obey her, The News reported. And now with both parents gone and no adequate welfare services to cater to them, the children are left to face their nightmares themselves.
“It is important to study this case in depth and find out where the man learnt this form of brutality. One must question him thoroughly figure out the causes that may be found in his history that gave him the idea to perform such cruelty,” points out Dr Perveen.
Sobia Rahman is a Program Director at Dr Sofia’s Day-care and Learning Centre and holds a Master in Women’s Studies. According to her, this crime is a horrifying reminder of the fact that women are still vulnerable even at the hands of men who are ‘supposed’ to be their protectors.
UN Women describes domestic violence as ‘a pattern of behaviour in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner’. The violence can include economic violence in which one person – the woman – is made financially dependent on another.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) divides intimate partner violence into four types: physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, and psychological aggression. Unfortunately, all these instances ring true for many marriages in Pakistan. The reason why these cases are not reported frequently in Pakistan is because women often lack the support from the people around her including her parents. The only way to tackle the prevailing cases of violence against women is if the laws in this regard are precise and are implemented strictly.
“Punishment for such crimes should be expedited and given within one or two weeks. It will also serve as a mercy for the witnesses who had to go through this ordeal. Moreover, delay in justice for these crimes is one of the many reasons violence against women is increasing at such an alarming rate,” says Dr Perveen. “I also feel the media can play a vital role in spreading awareness by following up continuously with these important stories. They should also follow-up with stories that question the authorities on the steps that they are taking to protect women and children from this abuse.”
In the same vein, Sobia adds that it is important to empower women who are stuck in toxic and abusive marriages. “We need to stop shaming women for getting divorced or choosing to remain single. We need to encourage women to be more independent so that they can stand up for themselves when they need to.”
Violence between partners is common, according to UN Women data on violence against women (not including sexual harassment), an estimated 736 million women – almost one in three – have been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both at least once in their life (30 per cent of women aged 15 and older).
UN Women reports most of the violence against women is done by a partner including former husbands and partners – about 640 million women, most of them probably live in low- and lower-middle income countries.
In 2020, 81,000 women and girls were killed globally, out of which around 47,000 of them (58 per cent) died at the hands of an intimate partner or a family member, which equals to a woman or girl being killed every 11 minutes in their home. In 58 per cent of all killings perpetrated by intimate partners or other family members, the victim was a woman or girl.’The World Health Organization (WHO) corroborates UN Women’s numbers, calling violence against women a ‘major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights’.