Violence against women, no more

Published: November 30, 2011

The Women's Rights Bill is an acknowledgement by the State that there should be legislative measures to protect women. PHOTO: Waseem Niaz

The Women’s Rights Bill unanimously passed by the Pakistani parliament is indeed a great achievement. For what it’s worth, it is an acknowledgement by the State that yes, indeed, there should be legislative measures to protect women.  

Nighat Daad, a lawyer and the social activist behind Take Back the Tech initiative hopes that the proposed Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2011, which now awaits passage in the Senate, doesn’t face the similar fate as the Domestic Violence Bill passed by National Assembly in 2009. Daad says:

“The Senate allowed it to lapse while saying that this law will enhance the divorce rate in the country. While the intent of the Bill is undoubtedly commendable, its execution leaves a lot to be desired. There is also the possibility of the misuse of the clause related to inheritance matters”.

There are still cases reported in US, UK and Europe where South Asian girls have been killed by their own families for wanting to be with someone of their own choice. Here in Pakistan, like most Asian cultures, domestic violence is not openly discussed. When I asked around in my own circle for personal stories of domestic violence, not one person came forward, even though I suspect that at least one of my friends is in an abusive marriage.

For too long, honour killings and domestic violence has been associated with the lower income groups. This myth was shattered by the tragic case of Samia Sarwar in 1999. Samia belonged to a well to-do family and her father was the President of the Peshawar Chamber of Commerce. Her act of walking out of an abusive marriage and seeking a divorce was so unacceptable to her family that she had to seek protection in a women’s shelter. This act of defiance sullied the ‘honor’ of her family and her own mother had her killed right in front of her eyes.

Violence can be silent

According to Dad, Domestic violence occurs in all ages, races, genders and social classes. The form of abuse differs- in lower class it ranges from physical abuse to mental torture and in upper class it may restrict to emotional abuse. While doing different awareness raising events, under the umbrella of Take Back The Tech( TBTT), Dad says she was surprised to see how women wanted to talk about every form of violence they face. She believes that there is a dire need to create more spaces for victims of abuse where they can find support and strength from other victims.

Remembering the butterflies

November 25 has been designated by the United Nations as the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women. This day was specifically chosen to commemorate the lives of the Mirabal Sisters who stood against the repressive regime of General Trujillo of the Dominican Republic. The Mirabal sisters, known as ‘the Butterflies’ started a revolution against the General for which they were jailed, persecuted and eventually clubbed to death on November 25, 1960. The United Nations has chosen this day to raise awareness against all forms of violence directed at women.

But Nighat Daad remains hopeful of the future

“I now see many women speaking about the issues which once considered as taboos in our society. We literally need to create more spaces for victims, start initiatives like Take Back The Tech and more counselling for victims of abuse and more awareness raising events where public at large can participate both men and women”.

In India, the BellBajao campaign was successfully launched on TV and radio to create awareness and encourage action in stopping domestic violence. It may be difficult to quantify the impact of the TBTT and BellBajao initiatives, but they are much needed in the Subcontinent.

Last year, Robert Fisk, the internationally acclaimed journalist who followed up on Samia Sarwar’s case, wasn’t even able to locate her grave. This November 25, let’s make sure Samia Sarwar and the many other silent sufferings are not forgotten.

Sadya Siddiqui

Sadya Siddiqui

A personal branding consultant based in Karachi, who also contributes to The Express Tribune.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Shakeel Arain

    I want to congratulate you for this excellent blog . Although someone made absurd comment of increase of divorce rate in senate but it is really unfair to say senate deliberately let the domestic violence bill lapsed in senate . Discussing in senate on that particular bill were stopped because of devolution of the subject to the provinces .

    Provinces should initiate the legislation process in their respective provinces , it also important for provinces to take interest since they are going to implement and monitor . Recommend

  • muhammad sarfraz

    pakistani society doesn’t recognise domestic violence as violence,the majority of our population thinks that beating up your wife is a god given right.there are videos on youtube of maulvis telling men that it’s allowed to beat your wife but in the manner religious manner described.the “majazi khudas” in our society have the mentality of ”meri biwi hai jo chahay mai karun”.the women also of our society further perpetuate wife beating by telling their daughters,grand daughters,sisters that ”aurat ka dossra naam sacrifice hai” and their ”sacrifice” includes staying quiet while the ‘majazi khuda’ beats you black and blue,when he mentally tortures you,when he degrades and humiliates you.
    it’s not just the men who need to change their mentality,those mothers,grandmothers,sisters who tell women not to divorce their abusive husbands,who tell them to stay with sadistic husbands need to be condemned also as much as possible.such women are further helping patriarchy survive and flourish.Recommend

  • sajid

    If women want to achieve equality then they have to work for it. How many women in Pakistan will go to report a forced marriage or a case of domestic abuse? How many women will stand up for their right to get educated and work? In case of honour killings in most cases the victims mother supports her brother and father in her murder. Forget that most pakistani women are not even corageous enough to slap men who try to touch them in public spaces and markets.

    I know women have been long abused by men in our society but now if they want to get rid of that abuse they have to speak up and learn to take care of themselves. Recommend

  • Nandita.

    Families kill women who want to take a divorce, because divorce apparently brings ” dishonour ” to the family. Do they think that the act of murder that they commit brings them ” honour ” Ha ! These Regressive barbaric hooligans would rather have a dead daughter than a divorced daughter ? I would have thought that the family would turn against the husband for abusing their daughter but no, they lash out at the victim instead ! Shocking ! Recommend

  • Shumaila

    *sigh * violence against women is so entrenched, its going to take a revolution of magnificent proportions in people’s mindsets to get rid of it. I’m glad work is being done on this but so much more needs to be done. Recommend

  • Shaesta

    No more for do more.Recommend

  • Nausheen

    The idea of revolution saying but doing not so easy , man or woman either sex one who is most vulnerable is in a bad position . By enforcing this issue hope can be brought to most unfortunate ones , but this can only happen through education . How much emotional well being is important for a woman to maintain balance in relationship. People need to learn how to respect & have patience . This change is new for pakistanies but they are unaware of the fact ,divorce culture Leeds to single parents which results in more disturbed & violent society. Here in western civilisation people are using the word of broken society as a result of absence of male figure in family. We should be more open minded and should take responsibilities for our actions, not by fear of some bill but through the essence of Islam. Because it is the only way. Domestic disputes can be resolved through counselling . Recommend

  • Sadya

    Here is the link to Robert Fisk’s story published in Sept. 2011 on Samia Sarwar’s case

  • zalim singh

    Banish Them to Their Beds and Scourge Them! As long as pakistanis have this mentality, voilence will be the order of the day.Recommend

  • Sadya

    Not just Pakistanis, this happens in most Asians communities, and even in the West except that there are laws to punish such behavior.
    Another link to the Samia Sarwar story

  • Usman

    Very good effort indeed. Though, such problems persists in every society throughout the world as its a commob behaviour of Humans. Women is facing abusive, hard, tortured life decause there is no one to fight/speak for her right. What we are lacking in this whole issue is lack of proper Education. Education does not means only School Education, it starts from our home, lap of our Mother. Agreed with Nasheen’s comment, that otherwise the life is more difficult and miserable for single parents in our society. Every women is not such capable of survival because of different life status.
    In the end, hoping for the best and wish things could turn positive and could rectify/eliminate the root causes of abusive marriage,torture and divorce.
    May ALLAH ALMIGHTY bless everyone a happy,peacfful and prosperous life. Ameen. Recommend