KARACHI: The number of reported cases of domestic violence and harassment is increasing as women in Punjab are becoming more aware of their rights.
According to the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) data, in 2018, 3,860 women called the helpline after suffering violence at the hands of their husbands. Similarly, 5,320 women called to report cases of sexual harassment.
“Many are under the impression that there are more cases of violence in Punjab than in any other province. This is incorrect,” says PCSW Chairperson Fauzia Viqar.
Almost 55% of the population lives in Punjab which is the reason why the number of cases is higher. Further, the mechanism to report such incidences is stronger in Punjab than in any other province, she explains.
“Only in Punjab can women call on helplines and register their cases or seek advice when they suffer violence,” she says.
PCSW Senior Legal Adviser Imran Javaid Qureshi says that majority of the callers are women who were married in the last five years. Their main issue is a lack of understanding between them and their husbands.
“Majority say that their husband has had an affair or is a drug addict or doesn’t bear the expenses,” he elaborates. Most want reconciliation and not divorce. They avoid going to court because they know their cases will remain pending for several years, he adds.
“The laws are poorly implemented. Most of the time, the men get away with the crime,” he says.
PCSW data shows that the commission receives more calls from cities where women are educated and are aware of their rights. Lahore tops the list with the highest number of calls, followed by Rawalpindi and then Faisalabad.
“We also receive calls from far away areas such as Rajanpur, Layyah and Bhakkar,” says Qureshi.
Section 9 of the Muslim Family Laws (1961) stipulates that if a man does not care for his wife and children, the woman has the right to go to the union council which will take action, he expresses.
Qureshi believes that the reason behind the number of cases increasing is because of awareness campaigns. “Whenever we launch a campaign, be it on TV or on radio, the number of calls our helpline receives increases manifold,” he claims.
Social activist Farah Guramani says that violence against women is higher in south Punjab because of illiteracy. “Another reason is property, given by the boy’s family to the girl at the time of marriage, which often becomes a bone of contention between couples,” she says.
Majority of the women report their husbands to the police. However, police try to resolve the matter through panchayats (local courts) which force the women to reconcile with her husband.
Women Rights Lawyer in Multan Advocate Lubna Nadeem Khan states that women are largely unaware of their legal rights and the fact that they can approach an ombudsman in the case of violence.
“Sadly, most don’t know where to go to report such cases. The state needs to provide them with proper guidance on how to act in such scenarios,” she stresses.