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Stop Domestic Violence

We only side with victims of abuse if they have the courtesy to die from it

By Sabah Bano Malik
Images

Stop Domestic Violence
خواتین پر گھریلو تشدد بند کرو
महिलाओं पर घरेलू हिंसा बंद करें

Why is a woman, beaten and bruised, no longer a credible narrator because she swiped back at the man beating and bruising her?

Domestic violence should be shocking. When survivors or people taking on the fight to get justice turn to the public in order to get said justice, or at the very least make people aware of what has happened, shock is an expected byproduct. Such was the case this week when the wife of a news anchor shared harrowing images of the abuse she has allegedly suffered at the hands of her husband.

And though the reveal that a trusted voice on television, a recognisable face from our small screens could be the perpetrator of such violence, the bigger shock should have come when people started blaming her. But that was maybe the least shocking part of it all.

In cases of violence against women the first thing we seek as Pakistanis is how perfectly does she fall within our parameters of the perfect victim?

“The perfect victim” is a standard to which we hold women, especially in cases of violence and targeted harassment, to decide exactly how much we believe she did or did not deserve what happened to her.

Was she quiet? Shy? In a love marriage? Modern or conservative? Educated or not? Was she privileged or from a tougher background? Is her father alive? Did she date? Was she on social media? Did she dance at her wedding?

Shortly after his wife’s story became public (co-signed by her lawyer, photographic proof, and images of the registered FIR) the accused anchor shared images of his own injuries. The comparison is in no way 50-50. His images, however, revealed that perhaps his wife may have found a way to fight back during the alleged days of abuse, and suddenly that meant that blame was to be placed 50-50.

Livid does not even begin to cover the emotions that creep down the nervous system when reports of violence against women have comments like “well why did he?” or “what’s his side of the story?” or “what about mental torture from wives, is it any less?” flooding them.

Women and men hoo-ed and haw-ed that if SHE hit HIM also then by golly how could she be the victim? To which I ask — if someone is beating on you with their fists, kicking you with their boots, yanking you by the hair, is the only appropriate response to play dead? Why is a woman, beaten and bruised, no longer a credible narrator because she swiped back at the man beating and bruising her?

Whenever stories of domestic abuse or sexual assault or sexual harassment make their way to the public on social media in Pakistan — including this one! — they always have people in the comments shelling out a long stupid argument. “WOMEN MUST LEARN SELF DEFENCE! They MUST learn to FIGHT BACK! Hit him once and see if he hits you ever again!” they froth from their keyboards.

But when they do, you no longer carry any empathy for them. You sneer at them, and you try to figure out if maybe SHE did something to provoke this violence on her being. You argue, maybe her husband had a point in hitting her.

Egregious!

But that’s what people started saying. In Pakistan, we only side with victims of abuse if they have the courtesy to die from it, and that too as quietly as they possibly can, because two of the most headline making cases of femicide and violence on women in Pakistan proved that even being murdered it is not enough to get the public on your side.

The murders of Noor Muqaddam and Sarah Inam sent shockwaves through the country, resulting in protests and collective anguish, demands for a safer country and a better judicial system. Women demanded answers to questions like, what the hell is wrong with Pakistani men?

But amidst all the rage, their characters were assassinated. In the case of Noor, it was heinous, hideous mudslinging about who she was and how the circumstances of her murder came to be. With the ugliest of the uglies putting the blame on her. With Sarah, a woman who married in her “later years” (re: 30+) her character was raked over for not doing enough research to somehow gauge beforehand that she had married the man who would go on to murder her. So, they blamed her for that too.

How many women in Pakistan experience domestic violence? The numbers vary from 80 per cent to 90 per cent depending on the research report but no matter what the report is, no matter who does, or what year it was done in, it happens.

Domestic violence and spousal abuse are so normalised here that just today my uncle shared with me that people at his old office would talk about it casually, at lunch, amongst one another as if sharing fun little anecdotes from the weekend. “My wife is always slow on roti; two slaps and it fixes it for a few days.”

Our television dramas are rife with domestic abuse — pushing, arm grabbing, face grabbing, cornering and, of course, slapping, not to mention the barely concealed evisceration of sexual consent and coercion in marriages. A slap is not shocking. And often, when I hear people discussing the villain of a drama (usually a woman who wears her hair down and likely has a job), “she deserves a tight slap” is included in the conversation.

Domestic abuse is so normalised that those who come out to fight it, who say enough is enough, are met with scoffs and contempt. People even accuse them of trying to mess with family culture and that they are crossing the line interfering with family or personal matters.

Even the police feel this way, in the case of the TV anchor’s wife, she and her lawyers alleged that it took four hours of back and forth with the police to finally register an FIR and even then, the accused was never arrested.

I would love to think we want to blame women because we are so ashamed of this culture we have allowed to thrive and prevail, that it’s easier to blame the woman than to take a long hard look at ourselves and be disgusted. But I wouldn’t give us that much credit — we blame women because we truly believe it is their fault for not suffering quietly, for not leaving, for not compromising, for not accepting — and if she did all this but still got beaten, we blame her for the opposite.

One of the biggest hurdles we have as Pakistanis in fighting domestic violence is this EXACT attitude, that women are to be blamed and that a good woman, a perfect victim would not fight back and therefore would be more worthy of our support.

Cover image: Shutterstock

By Sabah Bano Malik Images Stop Domestic Violence خواتین پر گھریلو تشدد بند کرو महिलाओं पर घरेलू हिंसा बंद करें Why is a woman, beaten and bruised, no longer a credible narrator because she swiped back at the man beating and bruising her? Domestic violence should be shocking. When survivors or people taking on the fight to get justice turn to the public in order to get said justice, or at the very least make people aware of what has happened, shock is an expected byproduct. Such was the case this week when the wife of a news anchor shared harrowing images of the abuse she has allegedly suffered at the hands of her husband. And though the reveal that a trusted voice on television, a recognisable
Stop Domestic Violence – By Irma Abbasi

Irma Abbasi
Freelance Writer

Video: BBC/YouTube

Stop Domestic Violence
خواتین پر گھریلو تشدد بند کرو
महिलाओं पर घरेलू हिंसा बंद करें

 

The Harsh Realities of
Domestic Violence in Pakistan

Introduction:

Definition of ‘Domestic Violence’
Domestic violence and emotional abuse are behaviors used by one person in a
relationship to control the other. Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior
characterized by the intent to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner or
other family members. The abuse can be established over time and in most cases, it begins subtly
with insults, a shove or by alienating the survivor from family and friends. With time, the
abusive behavior can be more frequent and severe. Domestic violence can take many forms such as:
1- Physical. Any use of force that causes pain or injury, such as hitting, kicking or slapping.
2-  Sexual. Abuse can include sexual harassment, sexual assault or manipulating a person
into having sex by using guilt or threats
3- Emotional and/or verbal. Constant criticism, threatening to hurt loved ones or
harassment at school or in the workplace
4- Economic. Controlling a person’s income or financial assistance, misusing one’s credit or
making it difficult for a person get or maintain a job
5-  Psychological. Minimizing or blaming a person for the abuse, intimidation and/or threats
or destroying property
Domestic violence is characterized by violent actions or threats of violent actions, including
behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten,
blame, hurt, injure or wound a partner.

Domestic violence in Pakistan
Domestic violence is an endemic social problem in Pakistan. An estimated 5000 women are
killed per year from domestic violence, with thousands of others maimed or disabled. 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. The majority of victims of
violence have no legal recourse.

Almost one in three married Pakistani women report facing physical violence from their husbands. The informal estimates are much higher. Such violence is not only widespread, it is also normalized. According to Bureau of Statistics, more than half of the women respondents in one province believe that it is ok for a husband to beat his wife under certain circumstances; and these attitudes are not much different in the rest of the country.

In a recent stakeholders’ consultation led by the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR),
alarming statistics were revealed — studies suggest that 40% of women in Pakistan have experienced
physical or emotional violence in their lifetime. This article delves into the intricacies of domestic
violence, shedding light on its manifestations, root causes, and the imperative need for prevention,
especially considering the prevalent lack of awareness among women regarding the various forms of abuse.

There appears to have been a surge in violence against women, but in truth it is nothing new. It is just that we are more aware of it now and more women are fighting back.

From the horrific case of 27-year-old Noor Muqaddam, who was brutally tortured and beheaded in the nation’s capital on July 21, to that of Ayesha Ikram, a TikTok creator, who was harassed and groped on the country’s Independence Day by more than 400 men on the grounds of one of the country’s major national monuments, the Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore – it feels as if violence against women has reached epidemic proportions.Image showing Shahnawaz Amir (L), who killed his wife Sarah Inam over a domestic dispute. — Twitter/File
Image showing Shahnawaz Amir (L), who killed his wife Sarah Inam over a domestic dispute. — Twitter/File

Another such case was that of 28-year-old Samia Sarwar, whose murder was arranged by her family in 1999. She had been seeking a divorce from her violent husband, a decision her family did not support because it would have “dishonored” the family name.

She was shot dead in the offices of Hina Jilani, a well-respected Supreme Court lawyer and human rights activist. Sarwar had been there for a pre-arranged meeting with her mother to receive the divorce papers.

Another well-documented case is that of Mukhtaran Mai, who was gang-raped in June 2002 by four men in Meerwala village in southern Punjab’s Muzaffargarh district. Mai was raped on the orders of a village council as “punishment” for her younger brother’s alleged illegitimate relationship with a woman from a rival tribe.

Social media

Female education rates are gradually on the rise in Pakistan, with the rate of female secondary education rising from 28.6 percent in 2011 to 34.2 percent in 2021. There is now a new generation of young educated women who have the awareness and confidence to demand their rights.

Additionally, as technology and social media have become more accessible, news of cases has started to spread more widely and at a much greater speed.

One of the most prevalent forms of violence these days is digital violence or virtual abuse of women and girls. Digital violence includes online sexual harassment, cyberbullying and non-consensual use of images and video. Globally, 85 percent of women reported witnessing digital violence, and nearly 40% have experienced it personally. Hate and devaluation of women online cause long-term psychological, emotional, and physical distress.

Prevalent in all socioeconomic classes

The statistics show that despite the presence of domestic violence laws in the country, women are still not safe. Such cases are also not confined to specific socioeconomic classes, as women belonging to all backgrounds have witnessed intimate-partner violence, which has even led to murder. A few examples include the Noor Mukadam and Sarah Inam murder cases, as well as the ongoing domestic abuse case of Syeda Aliza Sultan, who recently submitted evidence of domestic violence in a court against her ex-husband, renowned Pakistani actor Feroze Khan.

According to Aliza, over the last four years, Khan allegedly subjected her to physical violence several times while also torturing the couple’s son, Sultan. She also submitted her medico-legal reports and images before the court to prove that she was assaulted by him.                                                  

Understanding Domestic Violence:

For many women, recognizing domestic violence can be challenging, as it is not limited to physical abuse alone. The spectrum includes verbal, emotional, psychological, and economic abuse. The volatile mix of anger, control, and power dynamics plays a pivotal role in perpetuating abusive behavior within households.

Domestic violence extends beyond physical harm; it encapsulates any form of abuse, be it physical, emotional, psychological, or economic, directed at women within the familial setting. This includes not only partners but also other family members, perpetuating a cycle of abuse that can span generations.

Over one-third of criminal cases are of domestic violence: report - Pakistan - DAWN.COM

In Pakistan, girls are brought up from a young age with a belief that it is better to remain quiet in an abusive marriage than to get a divorce from one’s intimate partner even if he is verbally or physically abusive. This cultural belief has incorporated itself from generations. Young girls grow up watching their aunts and mothers being treated unfairly and believe that ‘it is normal” for a husband to slap his wife and it is not uncommon if she is verbally abused on a daily basis.

In contemporary Pakistan, the rising trend of divorce underscores a societal shift where women,
particularly those educated, are refusing to tolerate domestic abuse. The main catalyst behind this surge in divorce rates is the prevalence of domestic violence.

Girls are brought up with the belief to find the right “one,” and settle down before she expires

But what if that right person turns out to be abusive? What is that one person, they’ve been waiting to spend their whole lives with, ends up physically and verbally abusing her? Everyone prepares a girl to be a good housewife. But no one teaches her to look out for herself.

No one teaches her to be her own saviors, her own soulmate. We are all so inclined towards helping her be marriage-worthy, but we forget to teach her the harsh reality. We teach girls to love, but we don’t teach them to stop. We don’t teach them to let go of the ones who cause them pain, we do not teach them to walk away from a toxic person, or a toxic relationship. We teach them to stay quiet, because that’s what good girls do, right?

We teach our daughters to focus all their youth and 20s energy on nurturing themselves into the perfect wife. But we never train them to be a leader. We never teach them to put their studies before learning how to cook. We never teach our daughters to love themselves, even if someone else doesn’t.

Root Causes:

The norms of authority and power dynamics within traditional gender roles are primary contributors to domestic violence. The deeply ingrained belief in the superiority of men over women and children
fosters an environment where abusive behavior is perpetuated. Economic stress, cultural norms, and a lack of awareness further fuel the cycle of violence.

Anger, left unbridled, also becomes a potent force behind domestic violence. Men, unable to control
their anger, subject women and children to humiliation, both privately and publicly. This toxic
expression of anger, coupled with traditional gender roles and power imbalances, creates an environment conducive to abuse.

Effects of Domestic Violence:
The effects of domestic violence are profound, impacting the physical and mental well-being of victims.
Beyond immediate physical harm, survivors often endure long-lasting trauma, leading to anxiety,
depression, and a pervasive sense of helplessness. Children witnessing such abuse can experience developmental issues and emotional distress. Physical and psychological health outcomes Domestic violence leads to increased risk towards certain health outcomes like major depression, dysthymia, conduct disorder, and drug abuse. Moreover, because women are primary caretakers in Pakistan, children also face increased risk for depression and behavioral problems.

Women in a poor state of mental health was also a high prevalence of mental health disorders with anxiety and depression being the most common. In particular, physical violence has long-term, negative psychological impacts on women with stigma against mental health serving as an impediment to treatment. At times, physical violence may cause permanent disfiguration of the body causing physical ailments that lead to a variety of psychological disorders like depression. Furthermore, women are often unable to receive treatment for psychological disorders as mental health within the cultural realm of Pakistan is not considered a health matter. Mental health illiteracy leads to treatment of mental health disorders superstitiously or not at all.

In contemporary Pakistan, the rising trend of divorce underscores a societal shift where women,
particularly those educated, are refusing to tolerate domestic abuse. The main catalyst behind this surge in divorce rates is the prevalence of domestic violence.

Why violence against women continues unabated despite presence of laws

Due to family pressure, abusive marriages, which could easily be ended within few months, linger on and women have to stay with their abusers for years.

Over the last few years, there has been a surge in the reported cases of domestic violence across Pakistan. Studies show that most marriages in our society are based on toxic relationships, often involving physical and emotional abuse. This, in particular, pertains to women in the country and even if they try to open up to their families about being abused, they are often sent back to their abusers in a bid to “save the household”.

Many a time, victims of domestic violence are told that “everything would be fine once a baby is born”. In hopes of making the situation better, women keep having children, but the cycle of domestic violence rarely stops.

As a result, a toxic, abusive marriage — which could easily be ended within a few months — lingers on and women have to stay with their abusers for years, only for the sake of their children. In doing so, not only is the victims’ life is ruined but children also suffer equally while being forced to live in an abusive household.

Preventing Domestic Violence:
Preventing domestic violence necessitates a multi-pronged approach. Shifting societal norms by challenging traditional gender roles is essential. Education and awareness campaigns can enlighten.

The time is right to act on this issue in Pakistan. Society, too, needs to step up for its women. Regardless of the introduction of pro-women laws that criminalize domestic abuse, the barriers to ensuring justice to the victims are too many. Merely introducing laws that lack proper implementation and establishing helplines do not mean that the state has fulfilled its responsibilities regarding women’s protection. The law also needs further improvements and clarity in its language. It is the responsibility of the state to give protection to its citizens in public and private spaces. There is no way the state could allow its citizens to be subjected to abuse just because it takes place in a personal setting. If we do not address violence against women and girls, sustainable growth will remain elusive.

Public health interventions for domestic violence can be given through three traditionally
characterized levels of prevention. Primary prevention in which certain steps are taken to prevent
violence before it occurs. This may include awareness programs both for women and other
people to prevent domestic violence. Secondary prevention which is focused more on
instantaneous response to violence, which also includes care before accessing to hospitals and
emergency room care depending on the type of violence. Nurses particularly can play the best
role in the initial assessment, and providing psychological support to patients to prevent them
from psychiatric disorders such as depression. The third type is Tertiary prevention which is
focused on long-term care of the victims, such as rehabilitation and reintegration, and measures
to decrease the chances of reoccurrence of any type of further abuse on women. Over all, there
are three types of preventive measures related to help victims in their serious situation when they
are subjected to domestic violence. Furthermore, interventions should be designed to work.

Conclusion
Domestic violence is prevalent in Pakistan at an alarming rate. Women are the sufferers and are subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse in their home by partners, in-laws and in some circumstances by their brothers and parents. The factors associated with domestic violence in Pakistan are low-economical status of women, lack of awareness about women rights, lack of education, falsified beliefs, imbalanced empowerment issues between males and females, male dominant social structure and lack of support from the government. Integrated supportive services, legal intervention and redress should be made available in situations of domestic violence. Support and help for women to rebuild and recover their lives after violence, should be a part of the intervention strategy, including counseling, relocation, credit support and
employment. In order to prevent women from domestic violence and provide them medical as
well as judicial and legal support, new plans and interventional maps should be made in the societies in collaboration with health team members, religious and societal leaders, NGOs, police department and people from other similar groups. This strategy implementation should be enforced.

Irma Abbasi Freelance Writer Video: BBC/YouTube Stop Domestic Violence خواتین پر گھریلو تشدد بند کرو महिलाओं पर घरेलू हिंसा बंद करें   The Harsh Realities of Domestic Violence in Pakistan Introduction: Definition of ‘Domestic Violence’ Domestic violence and emotional abuse are behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control the other. Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior characterized by the intent to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner or other family members. The abuse can be established over time and in most cases, it begins subtly with insults, a shove or by alienating the survivor from family and friends. With time, the abusive behavior can be more frequent and severe. Domestic violence can take many forms

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