Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Domestic violence

Another glimpse into the wonderful world of Islam.

Domestic violence

A monitoring exercise conducted by the law firm AGHS shows that from April to June this year, 122 cases of women being burnt were reported in Lahore. Of them, 21 women had acid burns while the rest were injured by direct exposure to flames. Forty victims died. Disturbingly, the figures have doubled as compared to the first quarter of the year. These cases constitute merely the tip of the frightening iceberg of violence against Pakistan’s women. The figures reported above apply to Lahore but are unlikely to be lower in other parts of the country. Indeed, one wonders how many cases go unreported. The forms of coercion range from emotional and economic abuse to gross violations of constitutional and human rights, including rape, burning and being handed over as settlement in disputes. Last year, at least two women were believed to have been buried alive in Balochistan. That a sitting parliamentarian defended the act as a ‘tribal custom’ reflects just how endemic violence against women has become in the country.

It is important to note that much of the violence against women, particularly in the domestic sphere, goes unreported. Legislation in this regard, meanwhile, has been indefensibly slow. Work on formulating a bill at the federal level against domestic violence was first initiated in December 2006. Two private members’ bills were combined and approved by the National Assembly’s standing committee on women’s development in April 2007. The assembly’s term lapsed before the bill could be passed, however. In March this year, the National Assembly’s standing committee on women’s development unanimously approved the Prevention of Domestic Violence Bill 2008. But little further progress has been reported so far.

That violence against women continues to rise is perhaps symptomatic of the steady brutalisation that Pakistani society has suffered over the past many decades. It is imperative that effective legislation be devised to not only protect women against abuse, both domestic and otherwise, but also bring the persecutors to book. Treating violence against women, including domestic abuse, as a crime will give protection to victims in meaningful terms.