Feb 19, 2009

Violence against women

According to a report by a local NGO, the year 2008 was a year of violence against women in Pakistan. As many as 7,733 cases of violence against women were reported in the print media during the last year. Out of them 4360 cases were reported in Punjab, 1385 in Sindh, 103 in NWFP, 763 in Balochistan, and 212 in the Federal Capital. Among them 5686 cases i.e., 73.53 percent, were registered with the police while 1476, i.e., 19.09 percent were not registered with the police. There was no information regarding the FIR status of the remaining 571 (7.38 percent) cases. Among these cases, 1762 were abduction cases out of which 1403 were in Punjab alone. There were 1516 cases of murder and 844 cases of physical injury, while there were 579 cases of suicide. These statistics are only the tip of the iceberg as a majority of the cases including domestic abuse go unregistered and unreported. The statistics given in the latest report should serve as an eye-opener for the government and the civil society. NGOs and human rights activists have been making a hue and cry over these horrendous incidents for years, yet instead of the number of cases of violence going down it keeps on increasing. While the women in developed nations are enjoying equal status with men, women in Pakistan are suffering in a male dominant society that is bent upon marginalising women. Women in our society have been suppressed, harassed and marginalised from time immemorial. In the relatively civilised or educated society, women face harassment on the roads, at the bus stops, in offices and are often abused at home. The less fortunate ones in the rural and tribal areas are subjected to torture and are victimised by outdated and inhumane traditions like honour killing, vatta satta and vinni. In these cultures, women are treated as objects rather than human beings and are traded like chattel. Disobedience towards father and brothers is unthinkable in these cultures and those who dare to defy the authority are often rewarded with death. This is a sad fact of life in a patriarchal society like ours. Unless men start treating women like their equals and stop marginalising them, the society will descent into chaos and savagery. Today, women are working in every field of life side by side with men. Women have a 33 percent representation in the parliament and have recently demanded a 50 percent representation. We have had a woman prime minister twice, who was also the first woman prime minister of the Muslim world. Under all these circumstances, the fact that the women of Pakistan continue to suffer at the hands of men must shame the authorities. While the NGOs and human rights organisations are battling for the rights of women, the government has turned a deaf ear to their plight. The Women’s Protection Act was passed in 2006, but the law enforcement agencies failed to implement the law in letter and spirit, thus reducing it to mere paper work. The government needs to realise that only passing resolutions for women protection will prove futile without proper action. The government should order the police forces to track every case of violence against women and catch the culprit. The perpetrators should be awarded harsh punishments and they should be made an example so that no one dares to mistreat women. The government should also devise legislation to deal with domestic violence and should educate women to report such cases.

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