Multan: Despite enacting legislation for women’s protection against domestic violence, scale of reported abuses remains high, especially in the Southern Punjab. In fact, cases of domestic violence have been reported to be on the rise in the region. Statistics collected from police reports and women’s right organization show an increase of 40% in the cases of domestic violence.

A report prepared by police department reveals that over 450 cases of domestic violence have been reported in different police stations within the first quarter of 2017, while 225 cases have been reported in the recently established Multan helpline centre.

Since 2016, according to police reports, 826 cases have been reported in which women have reported physical, psychological and sexual abuse.

Consequently, over 300 women have attempted suicide. In the year 2015, 546 incidents of domestic violence were reported. Women’s rights activists have declared the situation highly critical.

A victim of domestic violence who tried to commit suicide, Asifa, a resident of Alipur Village, told News Lens Pakistan that she was just 13 when she got married under family pressure against her will. “My in-laws started criticizing me over petty issue since the first day of my marriage and would dislike my interaction with my parents.” She said that whenever she pointed out biased attitude of her in-laws to her husband, he would abuse and beat her. “One day, I decided to end my life. I sprinkled kerosene oil at my body and set myself alight. My brother-in-law saw me in flames and rushed me to hospital in critical condition after extinguishing fire.” Half of her body was seriously burnt when News Lens Pakistan saw her at Nishtar Hospital Multan. Asifa’s husband divorced her and contracted another marriage in his family.

Psychology expert and social scientist, Azhar Mehmood Sheikh says that that the number of domestic violence incidents, in fact exceeds reported cases. “Due to family pressures, traditional values, social stigmatization and lack of cooperation from government institutes many women do not report against their oppressors. Either they are forced to remain silent by their families, or the cases are resolved through local panchayats.”

A female police officer, Huma, appointed at Dad Rasi Centre Multan, a government organisation for women protection, says that in many reported cases of domestic violence, women’s family members are also involved in perpetuating the abuse. “A lot of times matters are sorted out before filing FIR but fear of stigmatization forces victims to compromise their rights,” she lamented.

Senior social worker and founder of a development organization, Yasmine Khakwani says, “Despite playing an integral role in social, political and spiritual role in the society, our women remain deprived and unaware of their due rights. Main reason for this is lack of implementation of law and order.”

Yasmine further added that regressive mindset, lack of literacy, poverty, family tradition and incompatible marriages all add to the problem in southern Punjab. “At the end, the victims of domestic violence try to end their miseries by committing suicide,” said Khakwani.

President Multan Women Wing, a local women’s right non-governmental organization, Saima Amir says that only 59% of the women in Pakistan study up till only primary level, whereas in the most developed countries the figure is at least 97%.

“A great number of women who fall prey to domestic violence have spouses who cannot find employment and hence become psychologically damaged, which they express in violent ways,” says Saima while speaking to News Lens Pakistan. She adds domestic abuse can only be curbed when the women’s protection laws are enacted in their full capacity.

Chairperson, Women Wing, Shaista Bukhari says that every one in three women is a victim of domestic violence, and this is an alarming figure.

“Even when women muster courage to raise voice against violence and report it at a police station, little attention is given to them. In case FIR is also filed, he alleged person is rarely ever taken under custody.”

A 28-year-old domestic violence victim, Ayesha, filing a complaint at Multan’s Shah Rukn station has complained that her husband beats her often, finds petty excuses to shout at her and also threatens to divorce her.

“My husband is not literate enough and hence treats women like objects. He throws tantrums at me for no reason at all,” says Ayesha, while speaking News Lens Pakistan.

Ayesha, from Jampur, demands to take a divorce from her husband after suffering from domestic violence in her 8-year long marriage.

“After the birth of two daughters my husband’s attitude changed towards me and my father-in-law is the main culprit for bringing my marriage to this point.”

Speaking to News Lens Pakistan, Ayesha has confessed, “Whenever I would speak to my husband about our daughter, my father-in-law would be outraged and rebuke me in front of him for not being able to conceive a son.”

A lawyer Zohra Sajjad Zaidi says state of women’s right in Pakistan is regretful.

“Situation has especially worsened in southern Punjab. Illiteracy is the main reason why men treat their female counterparts as if they are lesser beings.”

She further adds, “Firstly, police department needs to upgrade its role on the matter and must uphold their duties with sincerity so that efficient implementation of laws may prevail.”

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