by Saadia Syed
To say the least, domestic violence is defined as an incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (physical, physiological, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members. Much to my surprise, the world recognises domestic violence to be just more than the physical assault, more than the victim to be break a limb or two or to be badly bruised just to prove their case.
In our society, physiological loss or emotional hurt has never been taken into account, which to my understanding has far most important role in ones mental and physical wellbeing. physiologically and emotionally ill persons have their affects on the society at large. A report by World Health Organisation (WHO) published in 2013, states that amongst myriad short- and long-term health effects, research has shown that women who experience domestic violence are more likely to experience depression, more likely to have abortions and low-birth rate babies but sadly, depression or other physiological or emotional ailment is hardly considered a problem or a health risk for women in our society.
It is common to watch women being mistreated by their husbands or their in-laws in our society. Raising objection is being overwritten as it is considered to be a futile effort and at many occasions, un-Islamic which could invite the wrath of the Almighty.
As children, we grow up seeing our mothers taking beating from their husbands in the morning and serving them with a lunch later in the noon, our sisters or aunts coping up with insults and taunts by the whole family (read in-laws), preference of the male child over the female child with a clear difference in how they are being treated are some common norms. This scenario gives rise to the philosophy that says all is well… That conformity with this culture is the best way to lead a respectable life of a housewife and that a true and “righteous” woman is never to speak of such issues…
We are raised in a society that has a mindset that says respect and honour are privileges “only” enjoyed by men, giving premise for the honour killings (wonder why it’s always a man’s honour for which a woman must be butchered. Why has there been not a single incidence where a woman is so “dishonoured” that she felt the urge to kill?).
Low self esteem, insecurity, physical and emotional hurt and financial dependency seems to be the fate of a regular Pakistani woman since ages. The payback cycle begins where boys are raised by these same women, who have adopted conformity as a behaviour in circumstances that support sheer male dominance and gender bias, the result of what they have taught their sons to be “normal” is a grown man bearing the same “values” as he has observed in the society and most importantly at home, hence the unfortunate tale of torture goes on…
Should this be changed? Yes! What needs to be done? To start with, raising awareness would do. Pakistani women must know that it is not okay to be in a violent or abusive relationship! Accepting bad treatment and calling it fate will serve them no good. Taking account of the family’s name and honour is best if done from both the sides. They must know that when their husband uses physical violence, it is NOT a family’s internal matter anymore; this becomes a reportable crime. Above all, they should know that despite what many people believe, domestic abuse is not due to the abuser’s loss of control over his behaviour. Domestic abuse is a deliberate choice made by the abuser. Women should be able to recognise that their spouse has a serious behavioural issue especially if:
— He is not violent with other people (neighbours, other family members, colleagues etc)
— He is able to stop and compose himself if the someone arrives or the doorbell rings.
— If he uses physical violence he is able to choose where to cause visible injuries – often in places where others cannot see them.
— He damages the victims possessions but rarely his own.
Realising the trouble and choosing to stay in a violent relationship is not a wise choice to make as it has its adverse effects on the victim’s life and physical and emotional well being, bearing domestic violence would only invite more and jeopardise safety of her children.
Merely the awareness raising will not bear much fruit until there is a streamlined legal mechanism in Pakistan that deals strictly with the incidences reported that come under the ambit of domestic violence. In a country like Pakistan where inherited hurdles such as traditional gender roles, economic hardship and some customary harmful practices are a challenge for making efforts to deal with domestic violence . The very idea of domestic violence being a prosecutable crime shall take its time to be adopted by the society hence action on steady grounds needs to be taken regarding formulating a legal and monitoring framework by the Government.
Owing to the absence of domestic violence law, family court litigants have to approach the high court for justice as crimes taking place in the household were yet to be criminalized as per Pakistan Penal Code, thus delaying the attainment of justice.
Government needs fast track its efforts to prepare a comprehensive legal framework and also ensure to provide a safe rehabilitation centre for the affected women and their children in-case there is a need to flee from the abuser.
It is worthy for the attention of the decision makers that under the International Law, domestic violence is recognised as a violence of human rights. The past two decades have also seen numerous resolutions from the UN General Assembly on violence against women, including one that specifically addressed domestic violence. The Government’s inability to deliver its commitment as a part of Woman Empowerment Package 2012 and delay in the completion of Domestic Violence Bill will have its affects on Pakistan’s compliance with the Minimum Development Goals (MGDs) by 2015. More importantly, this delay is a danger lurking on the heads of millions of women whose human rights as well as basic freedoms such as the right to life and security of a person, right to equality and the right to lead a torture free life are violated and very conveniently covered as a family’s internal matter, shutting all cries for help behind the closed doors.
SOURCE: BUSINESS RECORDER