Friday May 17, 2024

An overview of crimes against women in Pakistan

By Sabir Shah
July 28, 2021
An overview of crimes against women in Pakistan

LAHORE: The recent grisly murder of Noor Mukadam, the 27-year-old daughter of a former Pakistani diplomat, by the scion of a wealthy business family has raised many queries regarding the safety and security of women in the country.

Renowned German broadcaster “Deutsche Welle” or DW has thus rightly flashed headlines that Noor’s murder has exposed toxic misogyny in Pakistan. Although most crimes against Pakistani women go unreported, a few local/international NGOs and media houses do come out with some eyebrow-raising statistics in this context from time to time.

For example, a few years ago, the London-based “Thomson Reuters Foundation” had ranked Pakistan as the sixth most dangerous country in the world for women. Eminent British newspaper “The Guardian” had also quoted this survey report in its May 9, 2019 edition.

Meanwhile, the “DW” had held: “Pakistan ranks as the sixth most dangerous country in the world for women, with cases of sexual crimes and domestic violence recording a rapid rise. Activists blame society’s patriarchal attitudes for the problem”.

The “Thomson Reuters Foundation,” a charitable arm of a Canadian news conglomerate “Thomson Reuters” had reported: “In some Pakistani tribal areas, women are gang raped as punishment for men’s crimes. But honour killing is more widespread, and a renewed wave of religious extremism is targeting female politicians, human rights workers and lawyers. Women are victims of violence and abuse, and the country still lacks a law against domestic violence. Last year the country saw around 1000 honour killings of women and girls, a practice that has been exported to the West.

It had maintained: “Pakistan is ranked amongst worst countries for women in terms of economic resources and discrimination as well as the risks women face from cultural, religious and traditional practices, including so-called honour killings. The country also ranked for non-sexual violence, including domestic abuse. In Pakistan, 90 percent of women experience domestic violence in their lifetimes”.

On July 14, 2021, a PTI MPA Zehra Naqvi had moved an adjournment motion in the Punjab Assembly over killing of 81 women for honour across the province in the ongoing year. Archival research tells us that between January and November 2020; at least 83 women had been killed in the name of honour in Lahore alone!

In Sindh, as a media report dated February 19, 2020, had revealed that as many as 769 people, including 510 females, had fallen victim to honour killings between 2014 and 2019.

Quoting the then Inspector General of Police, Dr Syed Kaleem Imam, a local media outlet had asserted: “Police have presented charge sheets in 649 cases and the courts have awarded sentences to the accused in 19 of those cases. Meanwhile, the accused in 136 cases have been acquitted and 494 cases are still pending trial. The conviction rate stands at a mere two percent against the acquittal rate of 20.9 percent”.

In its May 9, 2019 edition, “The Guardian” had written: “There are many ways of killing a woman. You can stab them, shoot them, strangle them, drown them, explode the gas stove and make it look like a kitchen incident. Some women do survive because their killers didn’t use enough force or they were just plain lucky. There are many ways to get away with murdering a woman. It used to be easier: the killer could claim that it was an honour killing; the woman had brought shame to the family”.

The newspaper had opined: “The police were understanding, judges lenient, and the law itself provided loopholes by calling it murder of passion. You could get away with a couple of years in jail. Or if the killer was influential, (and even within a poor family, the male killer is influential, his life worth a lot more than that of the murdered woman) the victim’s family could forgive the killer. Now laws are a bit more stringent but that hasn’t slowed down the killings”. In the 2019 “Women, Peace and Security Index,” Pakistan was ranked 164 out of 167 countries.

Another report said Pakistan was the worst among nine South Asian countries on access to mobile phones, financial inclusion, and discriminatory norms for women. Around 12.2 million girls, compared with 10.6 million boys, remain out of school in Pakistan, poverty compounding challenges to girls’ educational opportunities.

A Pakistani NGO, “White Ribbon”, had revealed in one of its recent reports that 4,734 women had faced sexual violence between 2004 and 2016. This organisation had remarked: “Over 15,000 cases of honour crimes were registered between 2004 and 2016. There were more than 1,800 cases of domestic violence and over 5,500 kidnappings of women during this period. According to media reports, more than 51,241 cases of violence against women were reported between January 2011 and June 2017. Conviction rates, meanwhile, remain low, with the accused in just 2.5% of all reported cases ending up being convicted by the courts. The Chief Justice of Pakistan has recently announced that 1,000 courts would be set up to deal with the cases of violence against women”.

Not long ago, the Switzerland-based “World Economic Forum” had stated that 5,000 Pakistani women a year are still being killed in the name of ‘honour.’ In September 2019, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had rung alarm bells over plight of women in Pakistan, saying 430 cases of honour killings were reported in Pakistan during 2020. Of these, 363 were women and 148 happened to be men.

The “Global Gender Gap Index” of the World Economic Forum, had ranked Pakistan at third from bottom a couple of years ago. Pakistan was placed at 151st number out of 153 countries. According to another report of the Aurat Foundation”, another Pakistani NGO working for rights of women, almost 70% of women in Pakistan have been victims of domestic violence, at least once in their lives. This violence is generally committed by their intimate partners – husbands. These figures, however, do not include psychological violence, which is even more common in urban communities.

A survey carried out by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) had exposed the fact that one in every three women in Punjab (aged between 15 and 64 years) have suffered violence. This survey was funded by the UK’s Department for International Development in collaboration with the Bureau of Statistics and Punjab Commission on the Status of Women.