We must focus on prevention of crime and increase awareness regarding domestic abuse and violence.
The Punjab government seems to have recognised the deplorable conditions the women of the province face. The provincial government announced this week that a Violence Against Women Centre (VAWC) will be set up in Multan on March 8. It is planned that the centres will be extended across the province and a bill has been drafted on the matter, which is expected to be tabled in the Punjab Assembly soon.
Women victims of violence often find themselves without a home. Between the unwelcoming father’s home and an abusive husband’s, there is no place for a woman to go; no home that is hers. Keeping in mind our culture where it is seldom easy for a woman to live alone, crisis centres are a necessity. How well these centres are maintained and function will be determined in time, but for now we can appreciate that the need for better shelters has been recognised and other provinces too, should make this a priority.
In Punjab alone, on a daily basis six women are victims of murder or attempted murder, eight are raped, 11 are assaulted, while 32 women are abducted — and these are only the number of reported cases, according to a briefing given to the chief minister earlier this month. So while it is important that crisis centres are set up, what must also be remembered is that their setting up is not a preventive measure against violence. We must focus on prevention of crime and increase awareness regarding domestic abuse and violence. Neighbouring India seems to be focusing on this front with advertisements and public service messages intended to curb crime against women. Not only do we not have enough awareness on the matter, television programmes often seem to show acceptance of domestic abuse. It’s no surprise then that Pakistan is one of the worst places in the world to be a woman. According to the Global Gender Gap Index 2014, Pakistan was second to last in terms of gender equality. Pakistan cannot hope to progress in the world if its women are left behind. It is time our male-dominated ruling elite realised this.