Peshawar: Nadia, 35, is a resident of Malakand district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The mother of five has faced fierce domestic abuse in her years of marriage. But no more. Her decision to opt out has further jeopardised her life and that of her children. This is Nadia’s story.
Domestic violence appears to be a most widely committed offence, victimizing women in Pakistan. Most of it still swept under the carpet and goes unreported.
Nadia is one of the several victims of domestic violence. Her early-aged marriage to her cousin at the age of 13 was a result of family pressure. She encountered domestic violence from day one of her marriage. Her husband (she wouldn’t mention his name for her security) was fifteen years older than her, involved in criminal activities, tortured her both physically and mentally for long.
Almost two years back Nadia’s husband beat her so much that she ran away from home and stayed at her mother’s house in Dargai KPK. Later on she moved to a shelter home in Thekal Peshawar. Initially her husband let her meet her kids once in a blue moon but then he stopped her from seeing them to give her mental torture.
“I haven’t seen my five kids for the last one year. My husband never allows me to meet them. He married off my twelve-year-old daughter to his aged friend for PKRS 20,000 ($200). After that I filed a case for Khula (a form of divorce initiated by the wife),” Nadia sobbed while telling News Lens Pakistan. “When I went to the court for my first hearing, my husband and in laws threatened me in front of judge. He even opened fire on me on my way back home from court,” Nadia revealed.
After the attempt on her life, Nadia requested police officials to provide her safety but of no avail. “My lawyer asked the Judge to provide me protection when my husband threatened me in court but the judge refused,” Nadia lamented.
Nadia struggles to find her minor daughter. “I went to the Women Desk, a government desk for protection of women, NGOs and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Commission for the Status of Women (KPCSW) requesting support. I told the Chairperson of KPCSW, Neelum Toru, that I am facing domestic violence but she gave me RS 1000 ($10) and asked me to go back. I kept calling her office for my protection and support but she never answered my call.”
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was the first province where law for setting up a provincial commission on status of women was passed in 2010 by the then government. While the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (then NWFP) Commission on Status of Women Act 2009 was notified in Oct 2010, the Commission held consultations and drafted three important proposed laws including: KP Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection Act); Acid Crimes Control Act and law for amending KPCSW Act. It also worked on the Child Marriage Restrain Act, 1929, so as to improve colonial era law. Unfortunately, the draft of domestic violence prevention law was sent to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), which turned it down without giving detailed grounds for its decision.
Neelum said that the decision of the CII was a setback to them. “So many reservations of different stakeholders came to us. We responded to those reservations but all in vain. We can only propose the bill but the parliament is not making any law to prevent domestic violence against women,” Neelum told News Lens Pakistan. Until that happens, women remain exposed to domestic violence. “This government is a coalition of different political parties, which is the reason they still couldn’t develop a consensus to pass the law,” explained Neelum
The annual research report conducted by Aurat Foundation, published in December 2014, shows that 70% to 90% woman in Pakistan are victims of abuse. The importance of the aggressive behavior at home, not withstanding physical attacks includes enthusiastic and physiological manhandle. Different components add to the ascent in cases of abusive behavior at home including poverty, absence of education and social taboos.
The study further reads, “The patriarchal system of Pakistani society results in the marginalization of women, taking into account an implied predominance of a man over his significant other and it is regularly trusted that it is his entitlement to physically punish her.” Domestic violence and abusive behavior at home is usually goes unpunished, as it is generally trusted that viciousness inside in the house is a private family matter, not be meddled with by pariahs, study further explains.
According to the Data collected by Aurat foundation and Human rights commission of Pakistan 1,843 cases of domestic violence against women were reported in KP between years 2004 to 2016. Most of these cases were reported in the provincial capital Peshawar and Mardan district.
The mother of Nadia, an old lady, told News Lens Pakistan that Nadia’s husband attacked them six times. “We are not strong enough to deal with him since I am a widow with five daughters and a son who is a minor. Nadia’s husband is a criminal and I can’t deal with him alone,” she appealed.
Miraj Hamayon Member Provincial Assembly and the Chairperson of Women Caucus told News Lens Pakistan that the main objective of the Caucus was to strengthen the voice of women legislators in the Assembly. “Being on the reserved seats, they felt ignored and sidelined. We presented the bill related to domestic violence in the assembly in 2016.The bill was forwarded to the Law Department and further it was forwarded by an Additional Secretary to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), which declared the bill un-Islamic,” Hamayon disclosed.
Again in 2017 an MPA from Jamaat-e-Islami Rashida drafted the domestic violence bill, but the women activists from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa declared the bill unfriendly, as in column 22 of this bill it is mentioned that the husband is allowed to beat his wife slightly whenever she is disobedient. As a result, the bill again went into the deadlock from social welfare department.
Naseem Hayat, Member Provincial Assembly and member Women Parliamentary Caucus, said that Nadia was shot by her husband and there were so many other cases of domestic violence in KP. But due to absence of law no one can do anything. We presented the bill for domestic violence but that went in the cold storage, as no one has shown concern to resolve this issue. “We (women) are only there in assembly to fill the seats, and for voting purposes. There is no value of issues or bills related to our protection,” Hayat lamented.
The annual report of Aurat Foundation also revealed that Domestic violence is the only category of crimes against woman nationwide where the worst of the KP districts are Peshawar and Nowshera and the provincial capital, Quetta, from Baluchistan.
Sana Ejaz, a social activist told News Lens Pakistan that the tenure of the current government is going to be completed but till date not even a single law has been made for the protection of women. Besides this the autonomous bodies, like women parliamentary caucus and Pakhtunkhwa commission for the status of women, are very politicized and they are not taking interest in law making for the protection of women.
Sana believes that the major reason is the continued lack of interest of the government with terms to matters dealing with half of its population. “Women parliamentarians are not strong enough to resolve the issues of Pashtun women. Absence of a comprehensive domestic violence law results in a rise in domestic violence incidents as in the case of Nadia,” concluded Sana.