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No to wife-beating

The arrest of a former captain of the national cricket team in Karachi this week on charges of physically beating his wife has brought into focus the serious and vastly underreported issue of domestic violence in Pakistani society. At the outset, however, one would like to commend the cricketer’s wife for having the courage to call the police and also the latter for making the arrest and not brushing the matter under the carpet as a domestic or private matter as usually happens. In most cases of domestic violence, the victim often endures the physical and mental pain of the abuse for years on end and does not often report it to anyone. The deeply patriarchal nature of Pakistani society is such women are strongly discouraged from speaking up when they have been subjected to abuse of any kind — when they are made to feel as if the fault lies with them and not with the perpetrator of the violence. Hence, often it happens that a victim of domestic violence thinks it simply not worth it because of perhaps the impact it may have on the children or because she may not be financially independent. Also, families of married women and large sections of society as a whole often tend to frown on those women who try to show some independence.

One good thing arising out of this incident is that it at least shows that some women can and do stand up against their abusers, even if they happen to be their husbands. It also reminds us that domestic violence is not something that only women from low-income and/or underprivileged backgrounds have to deal with and that it happens in situations where the husband and wife are both educated and the family is relatively well off. Domestic violence cases tend to go mostly unreported and are not restricted to husbands but can also involve fathers and brothers or even other male relatives. Also, while the police did arrest the offender in this particular case, the routine is to dismiss the victim’s plaint as a family or internal matter and to tell her to seek reconciliation. This needs to change if we are to root out this evil from our society. Also, families in general need to be more supportive of victims of physical abuse instead of asking them to forget about the abuse, as they normally tend to do.

The government which has done something positive at least on the issue of discrimination against women by piloting the Women’s Protection Bill through parliament has spoken of further measures to safeguard women’s rights. It has been said, from the prime minister to the president of the ruling PML-Q, that new legislation is on its way and that it will outlaw swara, vani, karo kari and other kinds of misogynist customs and traditions. It is hoped that any such new legislation will also contain provisions that bring domestic violence within the ambit of the law. Civilised nations do not tolerate wife-beating because they realise that being a spouse does not give one unbridled authority to do anything with one’s partner. It would be good if our laws moved in this direction as well.

Source: The News


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