As the plight of women eases perceptibly around much of the world, it continues to deteriorate here in Pakistan. There is still a long way to go and gender equality is nowhere an accomplished reality, but here we march steadily backwards. Having exposed the extent to which we abuse our children recently, the Madadgar National Helpline (MNH) has now brought the abuse of women into sharp focus.
All of the data that Madadgar presents is ‘open source’ – freely available in the print and electronic media. All that MNH do is collecting collate and analyse what is there for all to see; and it is not a pretty sight. There were 3,132 reported cases of a variety of types of violence and abuse against women in the first six months of this year – which would extrapolate to 6,264 in a full year or just over 17 a day. Given that there are over 180 million of us and slightly more than half of that number is female, this is a ludicrously low figure and in no way represents the reality of the violent and abusive lives led by many women in Pakistan.
The entire spectrum of abuse is covered. Domestic violence both spousal and against domestic staff, karo-kari, stove and acid burns (the former usually passed off as ‘accidents’), rape, forced marriage, kidnap, murder and suicide. Although technically suicide is self-inflicted violence it is often the case that women are driven to take their own lives by the abuse they suffer. Some of the figures have a particular horror attached to them. There were 417 reports of women being tortured by the police, who are supposed to be there to protect them.
There were 432 murdered and 197 women murdered having been gang-raped; 125 were burned to death and 201 were forced into marriages they did not want. As with the abuse of children, the abuse of women breaks down province wise with Punjab having the highest numbers and Balochistan the lowest. This shameful catalogue of depravity makes a mockery of whatever legislation is on our statute books, proving pro-women laws to be more honoured in the breach than the observance. There is little or no serious effort to enforce legislation designed for the protection of women and the law is daily flouted in countless ways – and we have nobody to blame but ourselves.