Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic magnitude around the globe. At least one out of every three women around the world has been the victim of violation, beaten by the dominants, intimidated into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime or suffered domestic violence. For the Elimination of Violence against Women, in 1999, the UN General Assembly selected 25 November as the International Day to raise the awareness among the people of the world to stop such inhuman activities against women.
According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation expert poll (June 2011) Pakistan is ranked third dangerous country of the world for the women due to the high crime magnitude against women whereas Afghanistan is ranked as first dangerous country and Congo as second, India as forth and Somalia as fifth country for women and girls due to a barrage of threats ranging from violence and rape to dismal health-care, domestic violence and honor killings. The report states that 90 % women in Pakistan are suffering domestic violence, based on assessments by gender experts, while one in every three experiences some form of violence such as rape, honor killing, immolation, acid attacks, murdering and verbal or psychological abuse.
There is 13 % increase in crime rate against women in the last three years according to the police stations, courts and complaint cells whereas most of the cases are not reported due to social norms, self-respect, domestic preventions and cultural taboos.
The cases of violation against the women in 2011 which were reported to the police stations, courts, complaint cells and other organizations are estimated by different resources which defines crime magnitude as some 3,035 cases of violence against women in Punjab, 1,195 women had been murdered, 98 had been raped before they were killed, 321 women were raped, and 194 were gang-raped. This is a little snapshot of the crime magnitude against the women and girls in Pakistan in 2011.
After such gruesome activities take place in the country some questions spring in the mind of any sensible person regarding women rights such as where are the law enforcement organizations? What role are they playing in protecting the women rights? What the judiciary is implementing to forbid such criminal accidents? Where are the NGOs which claim to fight for the women rights? Isn’t there any act in the constitution designed to stop violation against women if yes then why it is not being implemented by the authorities?
There is no need to look so far into the history of law enforcement to protect women rights, let’s take into account the recent bill which is passed in 2011 demanding greater social protection for women. The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2011, authored by PML-Q MNA Dr. Donya Aziz, was unanimously passed by the National Assembly as well as the Senate. Amendments which are introduced in the Act 2011 include forcing a woman into marriage for settling a dispute to be a non-bailable offence, bartering a woman in such a way to be punishable by three to five years imprisonment and a fine of Rs0.5 million, depriving a woman of her inheritance can lead to imprisonment of between five and 10 years or a fine of Rs 1 million, Forced marriages to be punishable by between three and 10 years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 0.5 million, throwing acid on women will be hanged or imprisoned and forcing a woman to “marry” the Holy Quran to result in a jail term of three to seven years and a fine of Rs 0.5 million.
Now more recently The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill has been passed that makes violence against women and children an offence carrying jail terms and fines. The Bill was introduced by Senator Nilofar Bakhtiar. Those found guilty of beating women or children will face a minimum six months behind bars and a fine of at least Rs 100,000. The law classifies domestic violence as acts of physical, sexual or mental assault, force, criminal intimidation, harassment, hurt, confinement and deprivation of economic or financial resources. Previously, if a man beat her wife or children, police could not arrest him and it was considered a domestic affair.
However, both the Bills do not propose a mechanism to ensure that such cases are reported and reach a court of law, which is a necessity as these crimes often go unchecked and unreported.
To understand the condition of women in a society of Pakistan it is important to examine their status both within the domain of the family as well as within the larger cultural, sociopolitical context, which structures their opportunities and defines their capacity for action. Where are the flaws, in society or the law enforcement organizations? Why the crime rate against women is increasing so rapidly day by day in spite of acts for women social protection? Who is responsible? Who is responsible for such accidents? Are they individuals, rural system, male dominating society, our culture, judiciary, government, tribal system, or law enforcement organization, who?
So many years have been passed including 2011 in struggling to save the women rights and provide them social protection but the scale of crime against women is increasing rather than decreasing. Let’s see 2012 will be successful to decrease the rate of violence against women or not. Or 2012 will be similar to all other years that have been passed with so many grievous accidents against women without prevention of these accidents. Let’s see The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2011 and Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill will be enforced in true spirit or not.
While looking for further improvements in legislation related to women rights and protection, the main concern should be to create awareness among masses for the protection and rights of women, and better enforcement of the law.
‘Islamic republic of Pakistan’ can rank itself in the list of developed countries if it utilizes its women along with men for its development and growth, as Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah pointed out while addressing participants at Islamia College of Women on March 25th 1940,
“I have always maintained that no nation can ever be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with the men. No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men. There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both, that of the women.”
Let’s strive for a better future for women of Pakistan!