Break the Silence

“Who made the roti tonight?” He shouted on the top of his voice.

“Me”… she said in a shaky voice, trembling with fear as she peek a glance at the roti which was burnt slightly.

“I think I should teach you how to make a roti”. He pushed the plate and allegedly hit his wife with such ferocity that her head had rolled back as she spun around with the sheer force of his assault.

This scenario is common in our society since ages. Almost one out of three married Pakistani women face physical violence from their husbands. Pakistan ranked 150th out of 153 in the Women, Peace and Security Index. Around 27 percent of women in Pakistan experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Violence against women is defined as “any act of gender based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty whether occurring in public or private life” (WHO, 2014).

Women are accustomed to compartmentalizing a daily dose of domestic violence and abuse particularly in remote areas of the country. This particular mindset of men thinking of themselves as “mard” so they feel no shame in hitting the female members of their houses. They show the authority and dominance over women by exerting such behaviors. Domestic violence is not only physical, but verbal and psychological too. Women are taunted and insulted by their husbands every day without any hesitation.

Another form of brutal violence include honour killings, rape, sexual harassment,  early age marriages, acid throwing by jilted lovers and the angry predator killing the girl if he faces rejection. What is sad in this scenario is more than half of the women believe that it is ok for a husband to beat his wife under certain conditions and circumstances. Most victims are forbidden or stay quiet in reporting such cases, even if they are able to identify the perpetrators. Our patriarchal society combined with an ignorance of the law protecting them as living beings are some of the underlying causes that compel women to zip their mouths. When violence occurs against women, it somehow becomes ‘political’; the question is never so much about the ‘who’ but rather the ‘why’. The ‘shame’ of being the victim of violence and ‘how will society react’ are some of the facts that lead to settling the matter with the perpetrators.

Women are constantly being subjected to violence and this is an act that we should strongly condemn. On 7 October 2016, anti-rape bills have been passed by a joint session of the Parliament. While these gains are fruitful but the challenges of implementation are still enormous. It has a long way to go before it will have a tangible impact on the lives of Pakistani women. For the law to create a positive societal change, it needs to be used effectively by human rights groups and civil society. The social stigma associated with victims needs to end. Deep down the perversion that we embrace, negates the severity of the crime. The society must lend out a helping hand to the victim rather than giving a look of disgust, abhorrence and hatred.

I hope and pray that we can recognize that violence against women is first and foremost violence and needs to be condemned. The moment the ‘act’ becomes more important and significant than the question ‘how and why’; it will start receiving the required attention and surveillance.

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