200% increase in cases of violence against women in past three months: report

As Pakistan is battling with the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been a 200% rise in cases of violence against women over the past three months. There are many reasons to draw positive correlations between pandemic and violence against women. A must-read for everyone interested in human rights.

violence against women

There has been an alarming 200% rise in cases of violence against women in Pakistan over the past three months, according to a periodical report of the Sustainable Social Development Organization (SSDO) from January-March 2020.

The report, according to the media reports, has been compiled from the data and information collected from national and provincial dailies. However, there is a strong possibility that many crimes had been committed and not reported or misreported at various locations in the country, it added.

The report mainly covers crimes regarding early child marriage, child abuse, child labor, domestic abuse, kidnapping, rape, violence against women, and murder. The report says that more than 90% of the incidents of violence took place against children and women in the past months.

Recently, a report on domestic violence against women in Pakistan drawn interesting conclusions. The report titled ‘Not accepting abuse as the norm: Local forms of institutional reform to improve reporting on domestic violence in Punjab’, authored by Maryam Tanwir, Shailaja Fennell, Hafsah Rehman Lak, and Salman Sufi argues for beyond legal remedies to protect women.

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The report looked at reforms in Punjab, where legal structural obstacles and discriminatory gender norms prevent women from accessing justice. “Women are subjected to violence that includes acid attacks, female genital mutilation, child marriage, forced marriage, and female infanticide,” it maintains.

The report attempted to highlight the causes behind the low rate of convictions in domestic violence cases against women. “This model of institutional reform of the criminal justice system could provide the way forward to close the large gap between incidents of violence against women (VAW) and the low level of convictions in many societies,” it said, adding that such institutional reform could be adapted for use in other countries to comprehensively reduce VAW cases and to increase the success in prosecution and sentencing of perpetrators of such crimes.

Mr Salman Sufi pointed out that one of the reasons behind the lack of conviction against the culprits is, excessive moral judgments passed by all and sundry. “Through our extensive research, we identified the prime reasons which resulted in a low conviction rate of gender-based violence crimes. These include disconnected evidence collection; lack of sensitization to gender-based violence issues; passing of moral judgments; and absenteeism of relevant personnel. Multan VAWC has inbuilt institutional reform aspects to address all these,” he said.

Violence against women in Pakistan:

Pakistan ranks 150 out of 153 countries on The Georgetown Institute’s Women, Peace, and Security index ─ among the five worst countries for women in the world. According to 2016 data, 26.8 per cent of Pakistani women said they have experienced intimate partner violence. According to another report of the Aurat Foundation, Pakistan is a country where almost 70% of women are victims of domestic violence, at least once in their lives. This violence is generally committed by their intimate partners – husbands. These figures, however, do not include psychological violence, which is even more common in urban communities.

One in every three women in Punjab aged between 15 and 64 years has suffered violence, according to a survey conducted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The survey funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) was first of its kind in Pakistan in collaboration with the Bureau of Statistics and Punjab Commission on the Status of Women.

Read More: Domestic violence, political participation: How can Pakistan protect its women?

It is pertinent to mention here that Pakistan has passed several laws to protect women across the country. But data shows that the cases are increasing with the passage of time despite the presence of a legal mechanism of protection. Experts now suggest to look into Pakistan’s social order and evaluate if it welcomes any law which heavily negatives some social values and cultural beliefs.

Laws to Protect Women

Although in the province of Punjab, a law known as ‘The Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act 2015’ has been passed yet there are numerous cases of violence against women in the province. According to a report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which put the number of honor killings between June 2017 and August 2018 at 737.

The total number of such murders since the organization started keeping records in 2016 stands at 15,222. Honor killing has become almost a norm in many parts of Pakistan where women are treated as a commodity and whose sole responsibility is to be submissive guardians of men’s honor and ego.

Read More: How to protect women against violence in Pakistan?

Experts and researchers suggest that in Pakistan’s social setting like many other developing polities there is a complex and rigid concept of power. Violence against women, like rape, is a demonstration of power and strength. It should, therefore, be understood from a sociological perspective which helps to understand the context in which these incidents take place. If a girl, for example, refuses a marriage proposal of a man or any other demand for any stated or unstated reasons she, by doing so, insults the man and hurts his ego. Such trends need to be challenged and immediately countered.

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