Domestic violence in Pakistan
Domestic violence in Pakistan is an endemic social problem. According to a study carried out in 2009 by Human Rights Watch, it is estimated that between 70 and 90 percent of women in Pakistan have suffered some form of abuse. An estimated 5000 women are killed per year from domestic violence, with thousands of others maimed or disabled. The majority of victims of violence have no legal recourse. Law enforcement authorities do not view domestic violence as a crime and usually refuse to register any cases brought to them. Given the very few women's shelters in the country, victims have limited ability to escape from violent situations.
Types of abuse
An estimated 5000 women are killed per year from domestic violence, with thousands of others maimed or disabled. Lisa Hajjar, an Associate Professor at the University of California, describes abuse against women in Pakistan as "endemic in all social spheres". In an observational study published in the Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences based on a "convenience" sample of 218 women in the gynecology wards of three hospitals, 97% of the interviewed women said they had been victims of some form of assault, ranging from verbal abuse or threatened, to being subjected to beatings or non-consensual sex.
Dowry deaths have been described by the United Nations as a form of domestic violence. Women are often attacked and murdered if their in-laws deem their dowry to have been insufficient. Amongst dowry-related violence, bride burnings, also known as "stove deaths", are widely reported. In 1988 a survey showed that 800 women were killed in this manner, in 1989 the number rose to 1100, and in 1990 it stood at 1800 estimated killings. According to the Progressive Women's Association, such attacks are a growing problem and, in 1994 on International Women's Day, announced that various NGOs would join to raise awareness of the issue. Newspapers in Lahore in a six-month period (1997) reported on average 15 attacks a month. Women's eNews reported that 4,000 women had been attacked in this manner in Islamabad's surroundings over an eight-year period, and that the average age range of victims was between 18 and 35, with an estimated 30 percent being pregnant at the time of death. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported that about four women are killed in this manner every day, by either family members or husbands. Shahnaz Bukhari, who runs the Progressive Women's Association in Islamabad, has said of such attacks: "Either Pakistan is home to possessed stoves which burn only young housewives, and are particularly fond of genitalia, or looking at the frequency with which these incidences occur there is a grim pattern that these women are victims of deliberate murder."
Acid attacks in Pakistan came to international attention after the release of a documentary by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy called Saving Face (2012). According to Shahnaz Bukhari, the majority of these attacks occur in the summer when acid is used extensively to soak certain seeds to induce germination. Various reasons have been given for such attacks, such as a woman dressing inappropriately or rejecting a proposal of marriage. The first known instance of an acid attack occurred in East Pakistan in 1967. According to the Acid Survivors Foundation, up to 150 attacks occur every year. The foundation reports that the attacks are often the result in an escalation of domestic abuse, and the majority of victims are female.
Various factors are associated with domestic violence in Pakistan. Poverty, illiteracy and social taboos are considered the main reasons for domestic violence in the country. A lack of awareness about women’s rights and a lack of support from the government have been cited as two reasons. Another factor given for the rise in domestic violence has been due to increased urbanization. As people move from villages and increasingly live apart from an extended family, assaults are less likely to be prevented by the intervention of family members, who in past times often intervened in domestic conflicts. Another reason given for abuses is patriarchalism in Islamic society, which marginalizes women’s role. In some traditional societies, a man is considered to have the right to physically beat his spouse. According to Rahel Nardos, it is "the dual constructs of women as the property of men and as the standard-bearers of a family's honour set the stage for culturally sanctioned forms of violence". Women have reported attacks ranging from physical to psychological and sexual abuse from partners, in-laws and family members. In 1998 of 1974 reported murders the majority of victims were killed by either family members or In laws. A survey carried out by the Thomson Reuters Foundation ranked Pakistan as the third most dangerous country in the world for women, after Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo; it is followed by India and Somalia.
In 1976 the Pakistani government passed legislation on dowry and bridal gifts in an attempt to eliminate the custom but, because of cultural and societal norms combined with government ineffectiveness, such killings over inadequate dowries continue. In 1999 the Senate of Pakistan rejected a resolution which would have condemned the practice of murdering women for the sake of family honour. The following year, on 21 April 2000, the national government leader Pervez Musharraf declared that honour killings were "vigorously condemned" by the government and would be treated as murder. The Ministry of Women Development set up ten crisis centres to help the victims of domestic violence and raise the awareness level of the people on this issue. In 2011 the Senate passed the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill to repress acid attacks in the country; the senate also passed the prevention of anti-women practices bill.
In 2009 a Domestic Violence Protection bill was proposed by Yasmeen Rehman of the Pakistan People’s Party. It was passed in the National Assembly but subsequently failed to be passed in the second chamber of parliament, the Senate, within the prescribed period of time. The Council of Islamic Ideology objected to the bill, saying in current form it will increase divorces, besides the bill considered women and children the only victims of domestic violence, ignoring elderly and weak men. The council argued that the punishments suggested by this bill are already enacted by other laws and suggested lack of action on these laws being the reason for increase in domestic violence. After the passage of Eighteenth constitutional amendment, the matter pertaining to the bill became a provincial issue. It was re-tabled in 2012, but met with a deadlock in parliament because of stiff opposition from the religious right. Representatives of Islamic organizations vowed resistance to the proposed bill, describing it as "anti-Islamic" and an attempt to promote "Western cultural values" in Pakistan. They asked for the bill to be reviewed before being approved by the parliament. The bill was passed for Islamabad Capital Territory.
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