News Analysis |
A new survey about violence against women shows a dismaying picture in Pakistan. 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. The outcome of the survey was presented in a seminar on Monday.
According to the details, the survey was conducted under ‘Generating Data to Advance Women’s Economic and Social Wellbeing in Pakistan’ project. Women across Punjab were interviewed on a wide range of economic and social indicators. The sample size was 32,000 households in 36 districts of Punjab.
While speaking at the event, UNFPA, Representative in Pakistan, Ms Lina M. Mousa said “To contribute to enhancing gender equality and reproductive health and rights of women in Pakistan UNFPA has been working, over the past 40 years, with the government, civil society organizations, and the donor community to promote reproductive health and reproductive rights, gender equality and empowerment of women and girls”.
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.
Chairperson, Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, Fauzia Viqar said: “Women with disabilities experienced a higher incidence of violence (10%) and 53% of all young women with disabilities (Ages 15-64) are not involved in education and employment.” Ms. Kanwal Shauzab, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Planning, Development, and Reform, Government of Punjab, gave the keynote address and reaffirmed commitment to take forward the recommendations presented by the seminar participants for informing policies and programming. She said Pakistan had made progress towards creating an enabling environment to empower women and promote their economic, social and political rights, through progressive legislation, policies, and interventions.
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 contradicts some social values and cultural beliefs.
Although in the province of Punjab a law 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 commodity and whose sole responsibility is to be submissive guardians of men’s honor and ego.
Experts’ Suggestions to Protect Women in Pakistan
Rafia Zakria, prominent academic and columnist, observed that “the truth of the matter, whether any wrongdoing was actually done, is almost irrelevant; the power of the community, exercised through the ruling of jirgas and panchayats (which are tribal councils made up of community elders and other strongmen) is front and center.
A community that can police its own, those who have invited questions or controversy, is a strong community, the thinking goes. In this battle, the laws passed by the federal government criminalizing such murders go up against the traditional and communal mores of a village or clan or tribal group.”
In most cases, these negotiations to find acceptability for situations that are locally unpalatable can take weeks or months and intervening layers of institutions have to be trained for that.
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.
Dr. Zakria while proposing the solution argues that “the answer, perhaps, lies in changing the debate and acknowledging that trickle-down feminism is not working to end honor crimes. If communities are clinging to these horrific practices as a means of highlighting their continued power against a modernizing world, then the way ahead may hinge on change at the community level, involving the very people who are now wielding power in tribal jirgas and other grassroots justice mechanisms”.
Analysts believe that by developing a comprehensive mechanism of conflict resolution may help Pakistan to get rid of it. Prominent TV anchor and columnist Dr. Moeed Pirzada offered an interesting solution in an article he wrote almost two years ago.
“Police, local political elite and lower judiciary – most of whom themselves are convinced of the value of ‘honor’ — need to be trained to understand these conflicts in the context of modernity and to be able to help institutions like Dar-ul-Amman, local councils and government approved local bodies to find solutions. In most cases, these negotiations to find acceptability for situations that are locally unpalatable can take weeks or months and intervening layers of institutions have to be trained for that.
This is what their capacity building is about. And perhaps most importantly media and educational institutions need to change the narrative; with the help of celluloid and books we need to spread the message around that young adults have the right to make their choices in love – and this includes the right to make painful blunders. And there is no family ‘dishonor’ in matters of heart,” he argues.