By Zoya Anwer
With the year 2016 coming to an end, the last week of December saw a chilling attack on two women in Taseer Town of Karachi over reasons yet to be known.
The mother and daughter were both slaughtered at their house and according to initial police reports, the two might have been drugged before being killed.
While it might be a case of personal feud, the possibility of a sexual assault cannot be ruled out in such cases. In March, the body of a minor was found floating after she had been raped in Orangi Town.
Several times in the year, the metropolis, which is known for its diversity and amiability, saw terrible forms of gender-based violence rearing their ugly heads, making 2016 not much different than previous ones.
At the end of July this year, a teenage girl received 50 percent burn wounds after a boy threw acid on her face in reaction to refusing his marriage proposal.
But before one can turn to authorities for legal action, it was known that the culprit was released on bail even when the law in place states a life term for such people.
Even though a lot of hue-and-cry was raised in Punjab after a bill against domestic violence was passed, a husband threw acid on his wife in February after quarrelling with her at their residence in Korangi.
Mehnaz Rehman of Aurat Foundation said that these cases were greatly linked to societal pressure and the association of power with male privilege. “There are times when the girl is asked to marry the culprit who threw the acid on her because extreme pressure is levied on the family and it does sound despicable as to how that girl would even think of forgiving let alone spending life with that person but because of their social stature, people often give in,” she explained.
With around 75 cases reported till August this year, there were some which caught attention especially the case of a young woman who was slaughtered by her own brother marking a case of honour killing in the city.
Twenty-year-old Hayat Khan killed his 16-year-old sister because she spoke to a man on phone and the neighbours told him that she was often seen talking to him at the door. Two months ago, a husband had shot his wife in a fit of rage after getting into an argument with her and later earlier in December a man who was in prison for murdering his first wife strangulated the second after he had been released on the pretext of ‘honour killing’, making it the third such instance that week.
As of last year, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 939 women became victims of sexual violence, 279 of domestic violence, 143 were attacked with acid or burnt, and 833 were kidnapped.
Despite the volume of cases, the rate of prosecution remained fairly low and the database recorded 987 cases of honour crimes in 2015 with 1,096 female victims and 88 male victims – 170 of them were minors.
Commenting on this year’s numbers, HRCP chairperson Zohra Yusuf said that not much had changed this year.
“The violence by and large has remained the same but as far as honour killings are concerned, at one in a city like Karachi we hardly saw any incidence but it has beginning to happened here and I believe it’s primarily because of migration because when people migrate, they bring their own customs where honour is associated with the identity of a woman,” she observed.
However she added that no one had been charged under the new bill because it has been passed in October and the cases filed under the new law because enforcement is very weak.
Rape and sexual assault
According to the non-governmental body War Against Rape (WAR), which released data on rape cases till August, 189 cases have been reported till the last week of December with 64 cases at the Jinnah Post Medical Centre, 67 at the Civil Hospital Police Surgeon’s Office and 68 at the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital. Earlier, WAR had identified localities of Korangi and Orangi as areas prone to sexual violence based on the number of cases from January 2015 to June 2016 with 616 cases reported at government hospitals with only FIRs accounted for just 24 percent of the cases. During this time, 616 medico-legal examinations were carried out with 122 FIRs reported at 112 police stations.
Sheraz Ahmed, a programme officer at WAR, said with the presence of only seven female medico-legal officers at hospitals, the survivors often hesitated in filing a formal complaint because many a time the female MLOs were not present during their duty hours and given that tests were supposed to carried out quickly, the delay hampered with evidence, creating hurdles in the case later.
Yet it is ironic to see the varying numbers between the data provided by AIGP Special Branch and offices of the city police chief because the Branch reported 1128 cases while the second reported 472 cases with a stark difference of 51 percent from 2005 to 2014. However out of the 30 cases taken especially by WAR, seven concluded with success.