Violence against women
In a country like Pakistan where violence is so rampant, can violence against women be singled out as a crime to be treated separately? Every act of violence should of course be condemned. But what is horrific about violence against women is that it is rooted in the contempt in which women are held in our society. Organisations that have been collecting statistics on gender-related violence confirm the singular nature of the violence directed against women.
Take the Aurat Foundation’s figures for the calendar year 2009 that were released recently. Nearly 8,458 cases were recorded from all over Pakistan, with Punjab leading the way with 5,722 incidents. The foundation admitted that in some regions it was not easy to collect data. But it is not just the prevalence of violence, which increased by 13 per cent in one year, it is also the nature of it that makes it so horrible. Abduction and murder top the list, but equally devastating are gang-rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, acid throwing and honour killing. It is the viciousness and vindictiveness of the crime, with some designed to hurt a woman for the rest of her life, that add to the crime’s gravity.
It is not simply strong policing and enforcement of the law – which no doubt are essential – that are needed to provide security to women. It is equally important that efforts be stepped up to raise the status of women in society and instil respect for women in the male psyche. Women cannot be treated as commodities that can be bartered away or destroyed to vent anger on another man. It is ironic that while there are laws to make violence against women illegal, these are not enforced. Unless laws are implemented and measures taken to improve women’s status in society, the violence will not stop.