According to a report in this paper on November 24, 80 per cent of Pakistani women are victims of domestic violence. This is corroborated by the clinical experience of senior psychiatrists and by data collected by the Aurat Foundation, which showed that reported incidents of domestic violence have increased from 281 to 608 from 2008 to 2009. Overall, violence against women rose 13 per cent in 2009. The news report highlighted that while wife beating is generally associated with alcoholics and the less educated, the fact is that it is pervasive in pretty much all segments of society, including the so-called ‘educated’ ones.
Unfortunately, this kind of violence is difficult to monitor and almost always goes unreported, taking place as it does in a sphere of private life not open to scrutiny. Often, the victim herself becomes an accomplice, making excuses and covering up for the behaviour of the abuser. Lawmakers have a crucial role to play as far as equalising gender relations is concerned. The Domestic Violence (Protection and Prevention) Bill, introduced in 2004, has yet to be adopted as a law. In 2009, the opposition of the Council of Islamic Ideology to the bill came as a blow to those who had hoped for a level playing field for men and women.
It is fallacious to draw validation of domestic abuse from the Holy Quran, and it is time that the mullah brigade changes their stance and advocates civilised spousal relations to those who follow their teachings. Having said that, the pervasiveness of domestic violence shows that it is not merely the blind faithful who deem it appropriate to use force against the ‘weaker sex’ — members of the enlightened class, who may not necessarily ascribe to Islamic values, behave exactly the same way as their more ‘faithful’ counterparts. It is time we stop turning a blind eye to domestic violence and recognise it as a crime.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2010.