ABBOTABAD: Even as International Women’s Day was observed across the country last week, with a host of public figures and officials pledging to respect the rights of women, the situation on the ground in Hazara division shows that violence against women continues unabated.
Despite the introduction of women specific laws and organisations, the uphill battle against patriarchal mindset continues.
Data gathered from police records, civil society organisations based on media monitoring, show that during January and February there have been around 29 cases of violence against women reported in six districts of Hazara division.
The district-wise record of gender-based violence showed that most cases were reported from Abbottabad with 14. Mansehra was right behind it with 10 cases reported, while four were reported in Haripur and only one in Torghar.
According to a breakdown of the data, validated by police records, seven women were murdered while one was killed in the name of honour. At least one woman was injured during a murder attempt.
Further, six women were kidnapped while two, according to police records, had committed suicide. At least another woman attempted suicide.
Moreover, at least five women were reported to have been raped, two were gang raped, while two were given as vani and two reported that they were facing domestic violence.
Last year, Hazara division witnessed gross human rights violations targeting women.
As many as 43 women were murdered last year, while seven survived murder attempts.
Moreover, at least three were given as vani to settle tribal disputes. Separately, 32 women were kidnapped.
At least 27 women committed suicide and five survived their suicide attempts. Moreover, 14 women were killed in the name of honour.
As many as 16 women complained of facing domestic violence including a woman whose private body part was chopped off by her husband, while two were stripped and their heads shaved off.
During 2016, 12 women were gang raped, while five were raped and the noses of two were allegedly chopped off by their spouses.
Among those gang raped, one was allegedly sexually assaulted by policemen in Mansehra. The case is still being probed on order from the Abbottabad bench of the Peshawar High Court.
Data relating to violence against children showed that as many as seven children were murdered while at least 22 had been sodomised. At least two minor girls were also raped, three were gang raped. As many as 13 children were reported as kidnapped while one case of child marriage was reported in 2016.
Dr Sahira Khan, a psychologist at the Human Development Organization (HDO) said that the main challenge towards curbing violence against women remains the psyche which considers women and girls as inferior to men.
While she hoped that the introduction of women-specific legislation, different departments such as the National Commission on Human Rights, provincial directorate of human rights and creating awareness through these and other civil society organisations, things would improve.
However, Dr Khan suggested that drastic steps such as implementing laws in letter and spirit and counselling of men from an early age were the need of the hour.
Gulnaz Rasheed, a lawyer and a human rights activist and regional president of Pakistan Peoples Party’s women’s wing said that tribal customs which continue to extend their reach to the urban centres were the key obstacle towards creating space and respect for women.
She said that the incumbent government needs to do a lot more to give women equal opportunities for development and a role at the national level. Rasheed lamented that while Islam had given immense respect to women, there were still elements who opposed it and have misinterpreted the teachings of Islam for this purpose.