Tuesday April 16, 2024

Violence at home

By Editorial Board
February 28, 2023

The National Commission on Human Rights has noted that cases of domestic violence continue to be reported regularly and are not always acted upon. The commission has said that it had received reports of a case in which an-eight-year-old girl was tortured by her family in Gujranwala, another in which a mother and daughter were subjected to abuse by in-laws after the death of the woman’s husband, and the case of Mahnoor in Sheikhupura, who at 13 years was raped by her father. These cases need to be pursued by police and taken up actively by investigation agencies, which is what human rights activists have been saying for long now, highlighting that domestic violence is endemic in Pakistan. The patriarchal nature of society, combined with increased poverty, religious extremism, and even other factors such as climate change leading to floods, which leave women more vulnerable, are all factors in this.

The laws passed in Sindh, Balochistan and in Punjab against domestic violence aimed at protecting women from being subjected to harm by another family member are steps in the right direction. It should be noted that the Punjab bill on protecting women was challenged before the Federal Shariat Court, which in 2022 stated in a judgment which holds much significance in a country where religious arguments are frequently used to block legislation protecting women, that the law was acceptable, and that Islam stood against violence within homes. We hope a national law is also passed, since there can be little doubt that laws that protect women need to be enforced across the country and then taken up by all agencies responsible for upholding the law so that women can truly receive the protection they deserve.

The few cases cited by the NCHR are only a drop in the ocean. Women suffer from immense physical or psychological abuse in the country and the figures put out by human rights groups annually including groups working for the rights of women speak of thousands of women being subjected to abuse of one kind or the other on a daily basis. Only a few cases come to light because these incidents are rarely reported. Many women do not even realize that emotional or psychological abuse is a crime. Although women make up almost 50 per cent of the country in which they are frequently killed in the name of the honour of their family, subjected to domestic violence, assault, and other crimes, there appears to be no safe place even for women carrying out the regular activities of life. When you are not even safe at home, at least the state should be the sanctuary you can turn to as a woman.