'40% women in Pakistan experienced physical or emotional violence'

39% of unmarried women aged 15 to 49 years reported being subjected to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), reveals survey

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People carry signs against killing of Noor Mukadam, daughter of former diplomat, and condemn the violence against women and girls during a protest in Karachi, July 25, 2021. — Reuters
People carry signs against killing of Noor Mukadam, daughter of former diplomat, and condemn the violence against women and girls during a protest in Karachi, July 25, 2021. — Reuters

In a stakeholders' consultation held by the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), discussions focused on gender-based violence revealed 40% women in Pakistan — as per studies — have experienced physical or emotional violence in their lifetime.

Meanwhile, divorced, widowed, and separated women suffered more violence than married women.

Chaired by NCHR Chairperson Rabiya Javeri Agha, the consultation's discourse revolved around the continuous increase in reported incidents of domestic violence and possible collaborations among key stakeholders for advocacy, policy and legal interventions.

According to the last Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) for Pakistan, 39% of women aged 15 to 49 years — who had never been married — reported being subjected to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).

The statistics prove that domestic violence is not confined to matrimonial relationships.

During the consultation, participants expressed concern regarding the increased number of domestic violence cases and stressed organised efforts to address the issue at all levels.

Domestic violence (a proportion of the total violence against women) is defined as any act committed within the family by a family member, or behaviour that results in physical harm or psychological injury to an intimate partner or another member of the family.

It was also learnt during the consultation that 14,189 cases of gender-based violence (GBV) were registered in Pakistan in 2021 alone.

Participants were also briefed regarding the legal framework such as the three laws legislated to prevent cases of GBV including the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act 2016; Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act Sindh, 2013; and Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act Balochistan, 2014.  Whereas, the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2020 remains pending.

The NCHR chairperson shared that the rules for provincial laws are still pending. "In Sindh, it took six years for the first conviction under the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act Sindh, 2013."

She added that basic challenges in controlling domestic violence are its societal acceptance, difficulties in registering first information reports, women’s lack of legal knowledge and fear of the judicial system, as well as the survivor's lack of financial independence.

“Besides that, lack of domestic violence shelters and a low number of female police officers also play a role in discoursing women from taking a decision," Javeri said.

She further added that on the occasion of the recently held Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan before the UN Human Rights Council, on January 30, many countries such as Sweden, Australia, Brazil and Japan recommended Pakistan pass the Domestic Violence Bill.

So far, the NCHR has developed a policy brief on domestic violence and has launched a helpline (1413) for the protection of women's marriage rights in Punjab.

"In addition to that, the NCHR has a complaint redressal mechanism and continuously follows up on rules and implementation of provincial domestic violence Acts in Sindh and Balochistan," Javeria informed the participants while sharing about the Commission's plan to initiate a campaign on DV based on domestic and Islamic jurisprudence.