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No second home

By: Saadia Salahuddin

When a woman leaves home without the consent of her family it has to be the boldest step for her, in our culture at least. She does so mostly under threat to her life or, sometimes, because she is not allowed to marry of her own choice or is subjected to physical and mental torture at the hands of her husband and in-laws. She lands in a shelter home. Ironically, here she is no less vulnerable, precisely for lack of proper security arrangements. A case in point: the Nov 2011 murder of a girl within the very premises of Darul Amaan in Chakwal.

Farah Rubab, 30, was from village Qutbaal, Tehsil Fateh Jhang, District Attock. She had filed a case of divorce (khula) from her husband while her family opposed it. She left home with her brother’s driver who drove her to Darul Amaan Chakwal where she put up at till one day her brother Adnan Khan came to see her with a servant. He had a 10-minute meeting with her, after which he asked his servant for something. It was a pistol. The next moment Adnan had shot his sister dead. This, in the presence of two peons who were hanging around the place at the time.

“Ten to twelve women were killed in Chakwal alone, for honour, in the year 2011,” says Nosheen, a women’s rights activist working with the NGO Bedari, based in the said district.

In another part of the country, a poor woman landed at Darul Amaan Mianwali, when her own family refused to have her. Reason: she had reported to the police that some proclaimed offenders (POs) were after her while her husband was away for his job. The police raided her husband’s house and killed a PO there. As a result, her husband and her in-laws turned up against her. Her own family also didn’t accept her back. She had no choice but to run off to a shelter home.

Interestingly, whereas the idea of the existence of a shelter home for women is to send them back to their families after a conflict is resolved, there is no assurance of a life-long arrangement of this sort once they return home. Lahore’s Darul Amaan received 1,852 women in 2011 while Faisalabad, the industrial city of Punjab, put up 1,254 women the same year. A 32-year-old woman named Parveen Sajawal from Okara refused to go with her family because she didn’t trust them and fears for her life.

Parveen left her husband’s home because he used to beat her. Now her siblings visit her frequently, together with her brother-in-law (husband’s brother), and try to convince her to get back home but she is determined not to. The Lahore Darul Amaan has a host of psychologists who Parveen has seen a couple of times for counseling. The shelter home staff does not push women out to live with their families. They leave the place at their own will.

In January 2011, Amina, 25, from district Mianwali, who was married and pregnant at the time, came to Darul Amaan Lahore where she had a miscarriage. She had been forced into the marriage and it was known within her family that she wanted to marry someone else. Once at Darul Amaan, Amina was cajoled by her treacherous brothers into returning home where she was killed two months later. The family was so influential that no FIR could be registered in her hometown. Instead, her family placed the blame on the man the late Amina wanted to marry.

In a common Pakistani society, girls are forced to stick with their husbands, however harsh, and – moreover – to stay with their in-laws, no matter how tough and unfair. Saira, in her 30s, managed to flee to Darul Amaan in Sahiwal when her family didn’t let her marry the man she loved and filed a divorce case in the court of law. Her family tried all possible ways to convince her out of the place but didn’t succeed. Eventually, she was killed by her brothers and cousins as she was returning from the court in police custody. She had won the case but didn’t live to celebrate her victory.

Lack of family and social support often lead women into shelter homes and once they are there, a stigma is attached to them. Life does not return to normal for them ever again.

Source: The News