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Attitudes towards Violence against Women in Pakistan

The Research Reports and media reports of 2012 and 2013 has made it very clear that violence against women is a very big issue in Pakistan, there is an increasing trend of violence against women. According to Thomas Reuters Foundation around 90% of the women of Pakistan face domestic abuse while thousands of women get killed in the name of honor each year but in the survey conducted by Aware Girls to find out the attitude of people towards violence against women in Pakistan, 20.65% of the survey participants responded that violence against women is not an important issue for Pakistan. It reflects the general patriarchal notion of the society which sideline women, the same attitude is reflected in programing, decision making and peace building process where women are sidelined. As mentioned, 90% of the women face domestic abuse but most of the perpetrators enjoy impunity, 35.87% of the respondents said it’s OK for husband to beat their wives, 10.87% said it is right of men to beat his wife while 25% responded that men can occasionally beat their wives.

Though 64.13% of the participants were of the view that men don’t have the right to beat their wives but in the next question in which we asked in which circumstances men can beat their wives only14.13% said men can’t beat their wives in any situation while all other respondents presented one or other excuse for beating the wife. So we can assume that actually 85.87% of the respondents endorsed domestic violence. 52.17% responded that a husband can beat his wife if she disobeys her, 26.09% responded that a husband can beat her wife is she does not take care of her husband , 21.4% responded that a husband can beat her wife s she goes out of the home without his permission, while 8.70% marked the option if wife visits to the male doctor without husband’s permission. These responses clearly points out towards the gender roles expected from women, and upon the unfulfilled to these roles the society accepts violence against women, so violence is used as a tool to push women in their gender boxes. The two main gender expectations for women according to this survey are “obedience of husband” and “restricted mobility”. In Pakistan, there are nil or insufficient mechanism of protection for women who are either victims of domestic abuse or at the risk of domestic abuse. There are limited shelter homes in each province where women live under strict surveillance and restricted mobility. Women who face domestic abuse usually don’t have family support to fight their case in the court and they don’t have any means of incomes by their own which make them economically dependent on the same family which is unwilling to support the plight of women in court. In our survey 32.61% responded that women should get legal help only when the case is very severe as taking the matter to court will tarnish family’s honor, 7.61% responded that women should not take legal help in case of domestic abuse.

Though in Pakistan men enjoy impunity for domestic abuse as there isn’t any system of legal protection for women against domestic abuse but 61.96% respondents of our survey said that men should be punished for beating or verbally abusing their wives, 9.78% responded that men shouldn’t be punished for beating or verbally abusing their wives or sisters, 21.17% responded that taking the matter to court tarnishes the honor of family, the matter should be resolved within the family and 5.43% responded that it’s not a big issue and women should compromise. The responses show the trend of impunity for men as well as the wish for having a system of protection for women against domestic abuse. A large number of respondents however preferred to keep the “respect” of family rather than protecting women from abuse. Some of the respondents didn’t consider slapping wife as a matter of legal punishment. One of the respondents said, “women should not be beaten in any case, we are not servants”; this statement points out towards the patriarchal attitude that the one who is weaker or sub-ordinate in position can be beaten. Therefore, there is a need to educate and sensitize people about equality for everyone, as challenging patriarchy is not just about rights for women, it is about equality for everyone. In response to what should be done with a girl who run away with home to get married with someone 31.52% responded that the matter should be dismissed silently, 28.26% responded that she should be congratulated and supported, while 7.61% responded that she should be killed. The report of Thomas Reuter Foundation has mentioned above 1000 reported honor killings in Pakistan, the attitude behind honor killing can be found reflected in this survey. When a woman decided about her own partner it is considered as a matter of dis-honor and to restore honor it is a common practice to kill the woman who had decided for her own partner.

The survey asked about the opinion of the respondents about shelter homes, 80.43% were of the view that government should open Shelter homes for women who are either victims or at the risk of domestic abuse while 19.56% were against shelter homes; out of which 13.04% were of the view that shelter homes will destroy the social fabric of our culture and it will promote the idea of running away from home for girls. In the comments the participants also expressed that shelter homes are used as hub of prostitution rather than protection. The last question of the survey was if laws should be developed against domestic abuse, interestingly 92.39% said they want laws against domestic abuse in Pakistan while 7.61% showed disagreement for laws against domestic violence. However, the respondents also suggested educational programs on women rights and women’s dignity. The high percentage of people willing to have laws on domestic violence shows that the society is ready for a comprehensive law against domestic abuse.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

  1. Silence around violence against women should be broken, women should be encouraged to speak about their experiences and to highlight the issue
  2. Both preventive and curative measures should be taken i.e. awareness raising, gender sensitization, challenging the gender norms which lead to objectification of women and gender base violence. Curative measures such as making shelter home, legal aid, medical aid, and counseling available and accessible to women
  3. Legal systems of protection and shelter homes should be established to protect women who are either victims of domestic abuse or at the risk of domestic abuse
  4. Helplines should be established and referral networks should be developed by the civil society to make information, counseling and referral services such as legal aid, medical aid and shelter homes  accessible to women in despair
  5. Capacity of activists should be strengthened in how to help victims of gender base violence and to enable them understand what makes it difficult for women to seek help
  6. School curriculums which reinforce gender norms should be revised and lessons on human equality and dignity should be included in it
  7. Awareness on Gender Equality and Human Rights should be raised among all sections of society
  8. Programs on educating young men and women should be developed with the aim of sensitizing them on gender base violence, to enable them understand the patterns of violence, it’s impact on women
  9. The myths around violence against women should be broken down because it will help the societies in understanding the patterns of gender base violence
  10. New technologies should be used such as Social media and Digital Stories to sensitize communities and policy makers on the issue of gender base violence
  11. The Civil Society organizations should advocate for strict implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against women
Multi-dynamics programs of women empowerment should be developed instead of seeing the issue in isolation such as political empowerment of women, economic empowerment of women and human rights protection of women