Every day, millions of women and girls across the world are beaten and abused. Many are abused in their homes by members of their family or community. Others are raped or harassed by the same security forces that are meant to protect them. Some victims of gender-based violence are employed outside their homes, some are not. Some are rich, some are poor. Some are literate, some are not. Who are they? They are mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. They have only one thing in common: they are female, and they are harmed because of it. Violation against women is a human rights violation that is demonstrated in several ways including: Domestic violence, Honor killings, Acid Burning and Dowry Deaths, Violence against women in custody.
The United Nations General Assembly defines violence against women 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.
Talk about the Pakistani society, women in Pakistan live in a world, which is developed by strict religious, family and tribal customs. They are subjugated to discrimination and violence on a daily basis. Violence against women in many fields is often not gestated as a violation of human rights but rather as a normal aspect of lives of Pakistani people. They live in an environment of fear, and their lives are guaranteed in exchange for obedience to social norms and traditions. Such women have been imposed by the traditional thoughts of a male-dominated society, and because of the fear and feeling of being inferior, they are suffering immensely. Almost all sorts of atrocities are committed against women in Pakistan, including rapes, murders honor killings and gender discrimination. The most abusive forms of violence being faced by women take place in their homes.
The human rights of women according to Islamic teachings must be highlighted in this context, because Pakistani people claim their society as an Islamic society. While Islam admits the rights of women, it does not impose restrictions or restrains to the freedom and privileges of women.The Quran thus states: “And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them, and men are a degree above them”(2:228).
However, if we analyze the rights given by Islam to women, it will be difficult to consider Pakistani society as an Islamic society where traditional and social norms put strict obstacles in the way of progress for women. A society that denies women their due rights, and behaves towards them in an undignified and blameworthy manner cannot be viewed as Islamic society.
Unless the traditional thoughts regarding women as inferior, or as personal property are changed, it might be difficult for women to get any sort of freedom from this atmosphere of fear. Lack of education and economic opportunities for women restrict the potential of women to think about their due rights. Furthermore, poverty and religious extremism are also roadblocks in the way of Pakistani women becoming progressive and independent.
Since decades the Pakistani society has been witnessing numerous incidents of heinous crimes committed against women. In 2002, Mukhtaran Mai, a 28 year old woman in Punjab, was gang-raped in front of her village by decision of the Jirga for the alleged wrongdoing of her 12 year old brother. Shazia Khalid, a doctor working for Pakistan Petroleum in Sui, Baluchistan was raped in January 2005 by an army Captain. In July 2008, five women were burnt alive in Baluchistan, in village Baba Kot in Jafferabad district, one of the areas where Umrani tribe is settled, allegedly by Abdul Sattar Umrani, younger brother of Sadiq Umrani, the provincial Minister for Housing and Construction and a leader of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party. In May 2009, due to the love marriage of Miss Kulsoom with Fazal Abbas, seven women of a family were arrested and tortured.
For all of the above incidents and many other likewise, the state remained silent at atrocities against women, rewarded the culprits or it has been actively involved in such acts.
Violence against women requires overall restructuring of society in order to be controlled in Pakistan. Unless society is reformed on the basis of Islamic teachings with true spirit and understanding, acknowledging modern changes in the world, it will remain a dream to decrease the incidence of violence against women. It is not bad to be backward in material progress but it is bad to be backward in thoughts. If people of Pakistan try to remove this social illness, things may start to change.
There are many steps which the Pakistani government and the people of Pakistan may take to controlling the violence against women. With the help of education, woman can improve their socio-economic status. Women should have equal access to education in all disciplines and at all levels. In order to minimize the high incidence of violence against women, nongovernmental organizations should play an important and effective role. Whereas, the immediate step which must be taken by the government is this that the National Commission on the Status of Women should be made responsible to deal with the issue of violence against women, and the commission should be given sufficient legal and financial power.
The role of religious leaders is also important because they have easy access to grass-roots of society. There should be workshops’ training programmes, and seminars, in which religious scholars should be invited to discuss the problems related to women’s rights. Electronic media, today, is a very effective and influential tool both for the government and women’s rights activists to create an atmosphere of awareness about women’s rights.
Violence against women is a complex problem which requires coordinated solutions, involving the participation of both the state and civil society. There is a strong and urgent need for mobilization and adequately utilization of all allied sectors of society for formulating policy and programmes, ensuring the safeguard of the rights of women.