Saturday December 02, 2023

Societal harm

By our correspondents
March 31, 2017

While we all know that women face acute discrimination in Pakistan and other South Asian countries, a new study on ‘intimate partner violence’ (or IPV), conducted in Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh, drives home the reality of life for women within their homes. The study, conducted by a group of international experts, proposes policy interventions that would protect women in these three South Asian nations. The report states that, while the low level of gender disparity in all three countries is a problem – alongside conservative social norms regarding the role of women in society – there is an additional problem in Pakistan. This revolves around the presence of social groups who condone violence against women and the lack of sufficient social and legislative protection for women.

The report discusses the impact of IPV on the welfare of women and the attitudes of young men growing up in a society where they frequently see women suffering violence and in most cases see no need to offer them protection. One of the key reasons for the abuse of women is believed to be the social structure within households, with the woman most likely to be blamed for failing to obey her husband in a highly patriarchal setup. The acceptance of male dominance as well as realities such as poverty and lack of education are other factors. Community intervention is usually rare and researchers point out that awareness is paramount to bring about any change. What these findings also show is how little we understand the lives of women and other vulnerable groups in our country. Too often, it is believed they stand at risk when they venture outside their homes. The reality is darker. It is within their homes that they may face the most acute dangers and the worst physical and emotional abuse. Such reports set a road map for the direction we need to follow to better understand our society and then work towards action that can bring about change over the long term. The values followed within homes today have of course become entrenched as they are passed down from generation to generation. Since swift change is required, legislative measures need to be strengthened along with community-level campaigns and the building of a stronger status for women no matter where they live and what they do.