The city has seen a rapid rise in crimes against women and ‘suicides’ over the past few months
he violent death of a baby shook Turbat to its core this Tuesday. A woman reportedly killed her infant daughter by slitting her throat.
The police have arrested the woman. It has been said that she was suffering from psychological issues. Speculation is rife that there is more to the incident than meets the eye. Some suspect that the woman may have been declared mentally unstable to protect family ‘honour’.
On March 15, some unidentified men gunned down a woman in Kalatuk, a suburb of Turbat. The motive remains unclear.
Earlier in the year, on January 2, in Tump, a cluster of villages west of Turbat, a woman was found dead at her home.
While some social media reports said it was a suicide, others suggested that it may have been an ‘honour’ killing.
Throughout the previous year, ‘suicides’ by young men and women were reported quite regularly.
One such incident had occurred on September 21, when 17-year-old Saba Wali was found hanging at her family residence in Hoshab, a town located a short distance from Turbat.
Saba’s immediate family claimed that she had been unwell. However, another relative said the adolescent had been subject to frequent taunts and verbal and physical abuse.
Her death came a month after another young woman from Absar, a modern town with private schools and English language institutions east of Turbat, took her life.
She was reportedly an intelligent, educated woman who had worked as a part-time teacher to support her family, including her ailing mother. The case had gained widespread attention on social media.
It was reported that a close friend of hers had been blackmailing her. This had caused her great distress and impacted every aspect of her life. The language institution that employed her he terminated her services and she had been was shamed and ostracized.
After reaching out for support for about a week, she had given up. The person who caused her pain went unpunished.
“It was heartbreaking that a person she trusted betrayed her and shared her pictures. She was already stressed out. The depression got worse when her employers fired her, instead of supporting her,” one of her friends told the News on Sunday.
“She struggled for about a week, but she didn’t receive support from anybody. Eventually, she gave up. The person who leaked her photos and caused her pain wasn’t punished. It’s disheartening and infuriating. Ignoring such crimes only encourages perpetrators,” she added.
A female student enrolled in a master’s programme at the University of Turbat, told TNS under the condition of anonymity, that harassment and blackmailing were quite rampant.
“It is suffocating. I cannot describe it. But if I inform my father, brother or another family member, they will ask me to leave the university, “ she said.
“We (the women) are left with no choice but to remain silent. Some people who cannot tolerate or adjust to the toxic environment end up taking their lives,” she said.
Crimes against women have seen a rise in Turbat as well as the rest of the province over recent years. The same goes for the suicide rate. Last year alone, ten youth suicides were reported in Turbat, Kech. This may just be the tip of an iceberg.
“The actual number of cases of violence against women is likely much higher than the reported tally. These figures represent cases reported on social media without the consent of the families who typically try to hide such killings,” says Prof Ghani Parwaz, a coordinator for Human Rights Commission Pakistan’s special task force overseeing Turbat and Makran.
“And women do not feel safe or comfortable opening up about verbal abuse and emotional violence they face at workplaces, houses or universities on a daily basis,” said Parwaz. “The idea of family ‘honour’ and the stigma associated with those who share such accounts are major reasons for that,” he added.
“I hear many such stories from people in Turbat. None of the complainants like to talk publicly. What one hears or read about on social media is a faction of it,” he said.
According to a report by Aurat Foundation, 66 women lost their lives in incidents of domestic violence in Balochistan in 2022.
Gender-based violence and honour killings often go unreported or are reported as accidental deaths or suicides.
Domestic violence and blackmail at colleges, universities and workplaces are underreported in Balochistan. Also, the prosecution rates for the reported crimes remain low. The complainants are frequently forced into withdrawing their statements.
Dedicated gender-based violence (GBV) referral pathways are the need of the hour. Establishing hotlines and online platforms to help survivors may be a first step in this direction. Community-based referral networks that involve the local police, social services, local elders and NGOs can help persuade the families and survivors to step forward and speak up.
The writer is a psychologist currently studying for her MS in psychology at SZABIST, Karachi