Deadly virus of violence against women (Pakistan)

Posted on July 30, 2012

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THERE is no denying the fact that despite policy interventions by the Government in different spheres of life and change in the societal behaviour due to increasing awareness, deadly virus of violence against women is still there and needs to be eliminated through more focused and concerted actions. One of the surest ways to check violence against women is their legal, economic and social empowerment and in this backdrop the announcement of President Asif Ali Zardari to appoint women judges in the judiciary for their protection from all kinds of exploitation and violence is the step in the right direction.

Violence against women is not a Pakistan-specific issue as some NGOs are trying to portray because women are prone to varying degrees of violence and discrimination in almost all societies but the problem prevails in somewhat crude form in our country especially in rural and tribal areas. Steps taken during the last few years like increase in number of reserved seats for women in legislatures, their effective presence at gross-roots decision-making ie local bodies institutions, equal educational and employment opportunities and their economic empowerment through programmes like Benazir Income Support Programme as well as legislation against domestic violence have had salutary impact on the overall environment but women are still facing widespread discrimination in a male-dominated society. It is a pity that despite presence of a sizeable number of women law-makers in National Assembly and Senate and Provincial Assemblies we still have highly discriminatory instruments like Muslim Family Law that affords tool to men to mentally torture their wives even after separation as per Shariah. Marriage at an early age is another factor, which predisposes women to violence by intimate partner. Early marriages are a very common practice in the Southeast Asian countries particularly in Pakistan as the girls are considered a social, economical and religious liability on the families, which need to be disposed off as soon as possible. Similarly, women whose dowries are perceived inadequate, by their husband and in-laws, suffer considerably more harassment in the husband’s home than do women whose dowries are more substantial. In tribal and rural cultures, the role of woman has been submission, to serve as a commodity and to sacrifice herself for the sake of values determined by man. Marriages for political and tribal peace are common and women are not allowed to marry outside the family for fear of losing ancestral lands. These are just a few examples of what is happening in our society and call for concrete measures to improve the situation.

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