Anew study has revealed that over half of the teenage female population in Pakistan and India has twisted and misinformed notions about domestic violence. The report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF), “Sexual and Reproductive Health of Young People in Asia and the Pacific”, found that 53 per cent of teenage girls in both countries believe that domestic violence is justified. A high percentage of adolescent boys believe the same according to data collected from India and other developing countries. It is indeed a tragedy that the youth in our country and in the wider region is growing up with such medieval beliefs.
Regressive attitudes regarding gender roles have seeped so deeply into culture and society that often victims and potential victims of domestic violence or violence against women in general believe that there is nothing wrong with such abhorrent behaviour. There is a tendency to blame victims of violence for their own plight, with the perpetrator all but absolved of responsibility. Our patriarchal societal structure, widespread gender inequality, twisted notions of honour, a weak legal framework and a general increase in violence in society have all contributed to domestic violence being considered an acceptable part of life. It is as if our society is suffering from the psychological phenomenon of the Stockholm Syndrome, wherein victims develop feelings of sympathy towards their captors or offenders. This mindset is setting young women up for lifelong violence. Their children will be exposed to the same violence and be susceptible to the same beliefs later on.
One way to alter this mindset is by addressing our woeful education standards as this was positively associated with such beliefs in the UNPF report. Unemployment and a history of family violence were also positively associated, both of which can be found in abundance in Pakistan. Sex education can go a long way in educating young women about their bodies and rights. The responsibility to change medieval notions falls on society at large, and educators, the government and the media all need to play a role here.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2016.