Phantom of Violence Continues to Threaten Women

By Khadijah Shah

Phantom of violence against women continues to take place in various forms and in different parts of the country, exposing the ghoulish practices, sending waves of shock and alarm in society.

Women, being the weaker segment of society, are vulnerable to many forms of violence among which domestic violence or more accurately, woman/wife assault, is the most common form. However, the recent incident in Balochistan was an eye opener for those fighting in the forefront for women’s equality.

Putting the female gender under the shackles of centuries old traditions in the form of ‘vani’, ‘swara’, ‘karo kari’ and ‘watta satta’, the culture continue to persist in remote areas under the patronage of elders or influential clan members. Among these, domestic violence is a multifaceted problem with biological, psychological, social and environmental consequences, that is often perpetrated by family members or in-laws. Many social, political, religious and local taboos continue to hinder attempts to change for the better.

The World Health Organization defines domestic violence as “the range of sexually, psychologically and physically coercive acts used against adult and adolescent women.”

“Domestic violence, hidden in nature and considered as a private matter involves physical, sexual, emotional, social, economic and physiological abuse committed by a person,” as defined by legal
experts. There is a need to provide a legal mechanism for the protection of victims of woman abuse in line with the provision of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Article 25 establishes the principle of equality of all citizens before law and then goes on to disallow discrimination on the basis of sex and then to allow the State to make special provisions for the
protection of women and children. Articles 27 and 34 allow affirmative action for women and Article 35 confers special protection on the family, marriage, the mother and the child.

The amended Protection of Women (Criminals Laws Amendment) Act 2006 provides ‘relief’ and protection to women against misuse and abuse of laws relating to ‘Zina’ and ‘Qazf’ (Enforcement of Hudood Ordinance 1979), and the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939.

However, the issue of wife assault/woman abuse remains unaddressed under this law. Numerous cases are reported but the officials concerned are reluctant to intervene by terming them as ‘private affairs’ of the complainants.

An effort to address the issue was made by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Women Development on April 26, 2007 when a bill called ‘Domestic Violence Against Women and Children (Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2007’ was submitted to the cabinet for approval. However, there was no progress and the tenure of the government ended on November 2007.

Protection of Women (Criminals Laws Amendment) Act 2006 was enacted on December 1, 2006 to provide relief and defense to women against the misuse and abuse of law and to prevent their exploitation.

Ferhan Mazher
Rays of Development Organization
Sargodha, Pakistan

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