A report published by the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on the treatment of women in Pakistan has revealed horrific widespread abuse. The group’s annual report details gang rapes, acid attacks, kidnapping, amputations, burnings and over a thousand “honor” crimes where women were killed for “domestic disputes, alleged illicit relations and exercising the right of choice in marriage.”
“Current and former spouses of the victims were the perpetrators in most cases and housewives were the most common victims,” the HRCP concluded from their records.
Reports of several incidents found their way to newspapers and other media forums. In February 2015, an 18-year-old girl, was allegedly killed by her brother on suspicion of illicit relationship with someone in village Qaimuddin Odho. In May 2015, a woman was stranded to death and cut up by her brothers in Sahianwala area after an argument over her having an affair with a neighbour. In September, a man gunned down his two sisters on suspicion of having ‘bad character’ in Sargodha. Two sisters were shot dead after one of them married a man outside their clan. Two women were killed in the name of honour in separate incidents in Mirpurkhas and Shikarpur districts. Three teenage girls were shot dead by their male cousin in the name of honour in Pakka Sadhar village in Pakpattan.
Nearly 800 women attempted or committed suicide in the past year. Most were the result of family quarrels, the HRCP reported.
According to the official figures released by the Ministry of Human Rights, 8,648 incidents of human rights violation were reported in the country between January 2012 and September 15, 2015. These included 90 incidents of acid burning, 72 of burning, 481 of domestic violence, 860 honor killings, 344 rape/gang rapes, 268 sexual assault/harassment, and 535 cases of violence against women.
All of these official figures have been disputed. The report from War Against Rape issued in July 2015, for example, estimated that four women are raped every day in Pakistan in 2014.
Violence against women, the report said, “remained rampant” in 2015 as “the most pervasive violation of their rights in the country. Different initiatives taken at the public and private level to address the issue lacked consistency and thus did not yield any meaningful impact.”
The HRCP report comes amid major protest from mainstream Islamic parties who oppose the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act 2015, who have argued that protecting women is “un-Islamic.”
Pakistan’s largest state, Punjab passed a law this February that would make domestic violence, stalking, cybercrime and other abuses a crime, yet over 30 groups are demanding that the law be repealed.
“The law makes a man insecure,” Fazlur Rehman, the chief of one of the country’s largest religious parties told journalists. “This law is an attempt to make Pakistan a Western colony again.”
The Council of Islamic Ideology has told the government of Pakistan that these protections violate traditions of Islam.
The council has previously supported a law requiring women alleging rape to get four male witnesses to testify in court before a case is heard and blocked harsher penalties for child marriages.
In an Op-Ed to the New York Times, writer Mohammed Hanif called the Council of Islamic Ideology “probably the most privileged dirty old men’s club in the country.”
The council’s main task is to ensure that all the laws in the country comply with Shariah. But basically it’s a bunch of old men who go to sleep worrying that there are all these women out there trying to trick them into bed. Maybe that’s why there are no pious old women on the council, even though there’s no shortage of them in Pakistan.
Hanif offers another incite into why Pakistan is so resistant to criminalizing domestic violence. “If you kill a stranger, it’s murder,” he wrote in the op-ed, “If you shoot your own sister, you’re defending your honor. I’m sure the nice folks campaigning against the bill don’t want to beat up their wives or murder their sisters, but they are fighting for their fellow men’s right to do just that.”
Some of us routinely condemn these pious old men, but it seems they are not just a bunch of pampered religious nuts. In fact, they are giving voice to Pakistani men’s collective misery over the fact that their women are out of control. Look at university exam results; women are hogging all the top positions. Go to a bank; there is a woman counting your money with her fancy nails. Turn on your TV; there is a female journalist questioning powerful men about politics and sports.
Often the perpetrators of violence are law enforcement officers, the HRCP report said. At the beginning of 2015, three policemen gang raped a nomad girl in Nasirabad which sparked large-scale protests. In Karachi, a 19-year-old lost an eye to an acid attack allegedly perpetrated by a police constable.
The Gender Gap Index 2015 ranked Pakistan as the second to last country among the 145 nations studied for the prevalence of gender-based disparities in economy, politics, education and health.
The HRCP report also notes that since Pakistan lifted the moratorium on the death penalty, 47 women are now in line for executions, most of whom do not have access to legal assistance.