The problem of widespread domestic violence is a part of a larger problem: an overall scorn for women rooted in culture. A woman’s dignity and self-respect are shamelessly trampled upon across the length and breadth of the country — in huts in the valleys, in slum areas, in jails, in bedrooms of the urban elite.
In yet another case of the like, a 25-year-old woman was ruthlessly beaten up by her husband in Haripur for not handing over her dowry money. Firstly, it is remarkable that the woman was physically assaulted for exerting her own free will, that too over her own possession. Secondly, it is astonishing that the exchange of dowry continues to be a serious — and sometimes even violent — affair in a culture which is quick to antagonise every social element that is against custom. There has been little legislation to purge out the menace of dowry from society. Save for the anti-dowry bill tabled in the Sindh assembly in 2013, no progress has been made on the national or provincial front.
The third, and perhaps most worrying facet of this pathetic episode is that the woman waited for an entire year and a half before rethinking her marriage and lodging a complaint against her husband. Her continued suffering rests squarely on the shoulders of lawmakers in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly who have dawdled on the Anti-Domestic Violence Bill which has been gathering dust in one of the legislature committees since February. If stifling conservative values prevent a woman from lodging a complaint against a violent spouse in other provinces, a zero provision of punishment for such conduct in K-P would be an impediment of twice the magnitude. How is she to deem him a criminal if the laws don’t?
Before we begin to address the anxieties and taboos in lodging a complaint against dowry and domestic violence, the legislative machinery in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa must at least make laws against these debilitating practices. Without it, hands will remain tied, and raised.