A Rampant Crime of the Intimate: Domestic Violence against Women in Pakistan
It is well known that women are helpless to many forms of violence, and domestic violence signifies the collective term. Violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which they are forced into a subordinate position compared to men.
The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) defines domestic violence as any act of “gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” 
There are different theoretical models that can be used to understand why violence occurs within intimate relationships. These include psychopathological, sociological, gender, and family systems theories. Psychopathological theories bring in individual men’s interpersonal problems and functional deficits, including certain psychiatric diseases.
Sociological theories indicate that illiteracy, economic vulnerability, stress, lack of support from authorities and a closed social network increase the risk. Lack of education leading to unemployment with resultant low monthly income yields anger, frustration and depression in husbands eventually leads to misery of women.
Gender theories describe the cultural and social constructions of gender, where masculinity is associated with aggression and power, and femininity with subordination lead to such accidents. Family system theories focus on communication, relationship, and problem-solving skills of couples in whom violence occurs; these couples are usually living independently without any intervention of their elders to help them resolve their issues.
Domestic violence includes violence perpetrated by intimate partners and other family members, and manifested through: physical abuse such as slapping, beating, arm twisting, stabbing, strangling, burning, choking, kicking, threats with an object or weapon, and murder. Acts of sexual abuse include coerced sex through threats, intimidation or physical force.
Economic abuse includes acts such as the denial of funds, refusal to contribute financially, denial of food and basic needs. Gender bias has also been found as a source of discrimination and abuse in terms of nutrition, education and access to health care facilities amounting to violation of multiple women’s rights.
Recently a rising trend of acid throwing and honor killing is observed in Pakistan. Domestic violence is under-reported in Pakistan. Not much research has been conducted on this topic in Pakistan. Factors which stop women from seeking help need to be investigated as well. To the best of our knowledge, there is no data showing whether women are even aware of their rights or not in Pakistan.
HRCP (human rights commission Pakistan) noted that up to 90% women in Pakistan face some form of domestic violence in their families and from husband. The studies conducted in developed countries show following percentage of women facing domestic violence: Canada 29%, Japan 59%, New Zealand 20%, United States 25%, United Kingdom 25%, Thailand 20%, Egypt 35%, Mexico 30%, and in Colombia 19%. This data shows that domestic violence is not only problem of Pakistan but is a worldwide menace.
A study conducted by Department of Community Medicine, Fatima Jinnah Medical College in 2010 revealed following data: 60.9% of the participants said it was their husband who physically abused them; in 23.93% of the cases being slapped was the most common mode; 17.09% said they were abused only rarely i.e. less than once a year.
The reason for violence was most commonly found to be anger and frustration, 36.36%, followed by money and addiction in 31.81% of the cases. Most of the victims, 49.39%, took no action against the abusers and only 0.4% of victims pleaded their cases in the court of Law. This article is written to break cultural norms of Pakistan that mandate that violence against women need not be discussed openly.
The situation of domestic violence against women in Pakistan is far from clear but what is clear is that it is an issue and not much is being done to prevent it either by the government or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The responsibility of this plight of women also fixes on the women themselves as well who appear to be ignorant of their rights and never raise voice against this injustice. So much so numerous women consider such violence a normal part of their normal family lives and never take any action against this so to save their relationship for their children yet this is one sided only.
To be able to address the issue properly it is important to have baseline data about its prevalence and reasons behind violence against women. Thorough studies are needed to be conducted to explore this matter in more detail keeping in view that domestic violence is a sensitive issue and needs to be tackled and studied carefully.
Laws need to be made for protection of women rights. The aristocratic thinking of the males needs to be changed. Women should be educated regarding their rights and values in the family. Awareness campaigns should be launched for both women and men.
It should be done by knowledgeable people like doctors, nurses, psychologists, priests etc. This could be done either by direct or indirect teaching. The direct methods would include one-to-one teaching, counseling, or group based teaching. Indirect methods would involve the use of media, pamphlets, role plays, dramas and talk shows.
Women are an important part of whole of the country. If they continue to be physically tortured, then half of the nation would indeed be maimed and our chances of prospering as a nation would indeed be marred. Concluding, urgent educational, social, and constitutional steps need to be taken to uplift this half of our nation to prosper as a country.
1. UNICEF, Innocenti research center, Domestic violence against women and girls; No.6 – June 2000.
About the Author: Dr. Amna Ahmed, is a house officer at Ganga Ram Hospital and Jinnah Hospital, Lahore, Pakistan. She can be reached at [email protected]
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