Violence in the home

By Zubeida Mustafa

A BANKER in New York aims a vase at his wife. She ducks and is not hit. She calls the police. The husband is arrested and spends five years in prison after a court trial.

A police officer in Karachi beats up his wife at the slightest provocation. She is badly bruised but has no way of seeking relief. This is a story heard in every third household in Pakistan.

According to the Aurat Foundation’s annual report, 610 women were victims of domestic violence in the country in 2011 — a 50 per cent rise over the previous year. AF, however, feels that this is the most under-reported of all crimes against women and only the most shocking cases come to light.

As a result, women activists have been jolted into action. They have strived for several years to get laws adopted criminalising violence against women in their homes by members of their family. They have also succeeded in several cases. But it has been an uphill struggle given the biases that are present.

The biggest challenge that has been faced has been in the area of domestic violence. Secluded from public view, women have put up not just with physical and sexual abuse in their homes but also verbal and emotional torture. Hence, even drafting a law against this evil has not been easy because all commas and full stops have been analysed and nuances studied minutely in a bid to stall the effort.

As a result, a number of drafts have been floating around in parliamentary circles since 2002. One was adopted by the National Assembly in 2009 by unanimous votes and another was passed by the Senate earlier this year. Yet none could become a law because no draft was passed by both houses within the stipulated time period. With devolution that came in the wake of the 18th Amendment we are back to square one. Every province is now expected to adopt its own law.

AF in Karachi has been working hard to get our legislators to reach consensus on the draft that was drawn up by various organisations and has been shunted about between the law and home departments. At a consultation organised last week, a number of women members of the Sindh Assembly shed light on what was happening. Shehla Raza, the deputy speaker, conceded that the draft the women caucus had agreed on was facing resistance from official quarters.

She was nevertheless hopeful that at the next session of the assembly, that has now been convened, the domestic violence bill would be tabled. She promised to convene a meeting of female lawmakers and women rights activists to consider the bill and propose amendments if the draft doesn’t meet their demands.

What are these demands and why is there so much hullabaloo about a demand that any decent, sane-minded, pacifist male should not have objections to? The fact is that domestic violence is something nearly 90 per cent of women in our society experience — be it physical or verbal/emotional abuse.

With a clear divide between public and private spaces in Pakistan with the home and family being considered something very private, many men feel free to behave as they deem fit within the chardiwari where many women are confined. The tradition is so deeply entrenched that there is much male resistance to any diminishing of what is seen as a ‘male privilege’.

Any law which impinges on this area is not welcome. Hence all along efforts have been directed at simply declaring domestic violence to be wrong. Many men do not want domestic violence to be treated as a crime as that could land a number of people — many of them men of high social standing — in trouble.

A study of various drafts invariably leads to this central point being a matter of contention. Religious leaders denounce such legislation as having a westernising effect on women and causing the break-up of marriages. Other critics advance arguments such as there is not enough public awareness on this matter and there are few shelters to provide safety to a woman who opts to leave her home.

At the consultation it needed lawyer, former senator and human rights activist Iqbal Haider to point out that so many legislators had supported the various drafts in different permutations and combinations that it can be presumed that there is a large number of men who want domestic violence to end.

The religious parties’ chiefs who have opposed the law are in a minority. Explaining the legal issue succinctly, he pointed out that in law there is no concept of offence without a sentence. Nor can there be a right without a remedy being provided in case it is violated.

The fact is that for many of those who have opposed the domestic violence bill, the issue at stake is the recognition of their right to regard their women as their possession. It is this concept that is negated by any move to make domestic violence a crime.

While creating public awareness and sensitising men to the needs of women is definitely the need of the hour, a law criminalising violence is equally necessary. It will provide the legal framework to test the success of a social awareness programme and also give teeth to serious efforts to eliminate violence from the home.

Source: Dawn

15 thoughts on “Violence in the home

  1. There is extreme violence and aggressive behaviours in Pakistanis (Karachities) towards old aged fragile ill parents (father and mother).One of our neighbours in Nazimabad area is AVP (Corporate Banking) and he is beating his 80 years old father.The father is heart patient but the executive banker is interested ln taking over property and lifetime savings of the poor fragile father. He could beat him to death.

  2. Sometimes women behave in a way that they need to be beaten up to be taught a lesson or two. That's very important. Obviously, if you're consistently doing good to someone, you also expect something good in return. And if you don't get you want, your being incensed is natural. Women are, by nature, intransigent and egoistic. So giving them a slap or two, not in the face, though, is not bad enough!

    1. Strange logic. If bad behaviour justifies violence, I suppose it would hold true for men too. Don't men ever have to be taught a lesson? Only people with low intellect resort to physical violence because they do not have the capacity to argue and reason. Why do men treat women as their property?

      1. Though I do not support and advocate for domestic violence but hate it. Here is a real example which by chance supports Syed Adeel Ahmad. Again likewise you I also do not support the comments of Syed Adeel.

        In 1992 I was at Saharanpur Railway Station waiting for my train. Suddenly a fight erupted between husband and wife. Husband started slapping his wife in full public view. Many passengers rushed toward them in order to prevent further slapping but strangely wife announced that he is my husband and have the right to beat me.

        Once again I may clear that I fully support your comments but dislike comments of Syed Adeel.

  3. Excellent article, a good insight on the issue,and well stated to drive home the point on the importance of this Law.
    90 % of women are victims of abuse at the hands of their close family member mostly husbands. The sad part is most women do not even realize that a slap or two is a violation of their dignity as human beings. Its time the many male legislators stop feeling threatened by this legislation. The law on DV will go a long way in helping women and other vulnerable people get relief and protection.

  4. this has been a very common story of today, as I would call "talk of the town" in every women gathering. But the causation is never pondered sinmply,frankly, and with pain I would say, marriages are arranged by parents with high concentration of materialism. So is the result, more materialsm less love, break-up in relations, and so everyone speaks of violence. What a great gathering to talk about amongst women, as a fashion.

  5. I agree with your opinion and I appreciates r efforts. but what is your opinion about the cruel, insulting behavior with a lady with another lady (in the shape of Sister-in-law and Mother-in-law)

    1. Equally condemnable. Violence is violence and to be condemned whatever be the sex of the perpetrator.

      1. Respected Zubeida Ji,

        For your information Ladies have over taken males in this area of domestic violence. One Lady can now torture her parents-in-laws, sister-in-law and husband at same time. Perhpas Zubair Lodhi wished to say that you should have dealt this issue by aiming the perpetrator and not in old-fashioned way of husband beating wife.

  6. why is violence AGAINST CHILDREN justifiable ? domestic violence should not happen but most women provoke it and some use as excuse for sleeping around looking for love HOW DO U JUSTIFY violence terrorisms destructions of public properties police brutalities GOONDAAISMS in any society ? !

  7. It is the weak and depedent who are subjected to violence.i have seen women beating and cursing their very young domestic servants.It seems to come from a low cultural level.abusing wives ,mothers and female relatives seems to be a right ingrained in the psyche of men who are providers.Laws must be put in place for women to be protected anyway.There should be a legal bar and the fear of it's application which will protect the women against violence,anyway.

  8. Ms Zubeida!

    This POST is at the right time as far as my status is concerned. Yesterday we talked to our relatives. She told now it is too difficult to tolerate torture and violence at the hands of husband and mother-in- law. Father-in-law tortures emotionally and like slow poison. She suggests that we all relative should visit her to give the impression to husband that I am not alone and have the support. Her parents are old, poor and live at a distance and perhaps due to this factor domestic violence is there.

    We told her at next beating call up POLICE but she got confused.

    The person who is a victim of Domestic Violence must now come out and report to media, police and authorities.

    Let your this POST encourage all and discourage to all (male or female) perpetrators.

  9. The issue is really real and infact it is imapacting thousands of women across the lenght and bridth of Pakistan. But i wonder whenever i go through such articles which emphasis on creating laws and laws same is the case with other issues as well. I think Pakistan have thousands of laws only to get rotten in paper fils inside offices, the question is the implementation of the existing laws what ever they are. Every one is saying or crying for law until the existing laws have not been fully implemented we would never know what is the further requirment or need for laws refinement. Laws for the sake of Laws would do nothing its time the activist should start raising their voices for implementation of laws

  10. i am totally against beating of women-they are the most beautiful
    creature created by almighty allah.

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