KARACHI: Incidents of violence against women continued to make headlines in the departing year 2018. Throughout the year, several reports surfaced whereby women and young girls were either killed in the name of ‘honour’ or rape and murdered.
Earlier this year, the Thompson Reuters Foundation conducted a survey that ranked Pakistan as the sixth most unsafe country for women. Sexual violence, non-sexual violence, human trafficking and discrimination remained some top of the list sources of violence inflicted upon women.
In January, a day after eight-year-old Zainab’s murder made waves on social media and caught countrywide attention, a 16-year-old was rape and murdered in Punjab. The victim’s body was recovered from an agricultural field in Bhalwal tehsil from the same province’s Sargodha district. In a report by the Human Rights Watch, it was revealed that activists estimate that about 1,000 honour killings happen in Pakistan every year.
According to Aurat Foundation, in 138 cases of this year 51 women and 25 men were killed, adding that 30 women and 19 men were killed in the name of ‘honour’. As much as 14 women committed suicide over domestic dispute while 21 women and eight men had been tortured to death in Balochsitan.
By February, data collected by a local NGO revealed that at least 18 major incidents of violence against women had been reported across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). More than 54 cases of violence against women perpetrated in the province, only some of whom drew attention of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
In July, a woman was beaten by her father and relatives in court over a domestic spate. Another alarming instance was reported about a woman being allegedly blackmailed and raped in Islamabad by Capital Development Authority (CDA) officials inside a public park for accompanying a boy.
In September, a woman was allegedly thrashed for shoplifting in Lahore. Zia Ahmed Awan, founder of Madadgaar National Helpline 1098 and national commissioner for children, during a news conference in 2017 maintained that 70% women and girls in the country experience physical or sexual violence by their intimate partners and 93% women experience some form of sexual violence in public places in their lifetime.
Crimes against women also include karo-kari, acid violence, kidnapping, domestic battery and harassment.
In May 2018, the National Assembly passed ‘The Acid and Burn Crime Bill 2017’. It promises free medical treatment and rehabilitation for acid attack victims and also expedites conducting trials of accused.
While women constantly undergo violence in the society, the K-P cabinet in November passed a domestic violence bill which shall be tabled before the provincial assembly. The bill criminalises offences against women and promotes creating district protection committees to safeguard women.
In November, National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz underlined the need to implement the Violence Against Women (VAW) law in the federal capital, following its implementation in all other provinces.
She mentioned earlier that this law was implemented in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan while it was recently approved in K-P. “Now, it is time to implement the bill at capital level so that women’s protection in the country can be ensured.”
She went on to say that merely formulating laws would not serve the purpose of protecting women from violence but strict implementation of such laws was indispensable for empowering these segments of the society.