On the detour – Latest News – The Nation


Mukhtaran Bibi. Dr Shazia Khalid. Kainat Soumro. Samia Sarvar. Khadija Saddiqi. Quratulan Baloch Annie. Asma Aziz. Arooj and Anesa Abbas. Sajida Tasneem. Countless others who have been kept anonymous for the sake of protection. Domestic violence, rape and honor killings are rampant in Pakistan, while accountability and justice remain ideals far beyond our reach.
According to the Aurat Foundation, more than 70% of Pakistani women are victims of domestic violence. Every day, at least 11 cases of rape occur in the country, but what is even more devastating is that these statistics do not take into account the countless cases that go unreported. If listing the names of each victim could fill books, detailing each horrific case would make collections and these too would only scratch the surface of this deeply rooted and backward problem in the country.
A few select cases like that of Qandeel Baloch – murdered by her brother Muhammad Waseem for insulting family honor – and Noor Mukadam – kidnapped, tortured, raped and then beheaded by her brutal partner Zahir Jaffer – are gaining enough popularity to create unrest and demands for justice, while the majority barely make the headlines. The sobering reality is that momentum always dies out. It takes the life of another tragic victim to get the movement going again and, rather depressingly, we have far too many to rely on. As the country fumes with anger over recent cases of violence like that of Sadija Tasneem who was bludgeoned to death by her stepfather after a row over moving her children to Australia where she was a citizen, a watchful eye must also be pointed to the obstacles that stand in the way of fair justice.
The creation of a legal framework for the protection of women is a fundamental requirement and although we have been slow to create it, successive governments have introduced comprehensive bills aimed at creating the infrastructure necessary to offer physical, psychological and legal.
In 2013, the Sindh Assembly was the first to pass the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act which called for the establishment of a women’s force at district level that would respond to complaints. He also promised committees, a universal, toll-free helpline and the construction of shelters. This major development was supported by the governments of Balochistan and Punjab who passed similar legislation in 2014 and 2016 respectively. The KP was the last to pass it in 2021 because, unsurprisingly, there was immense opposition from religious groups, which are a major obstacle to passing vital laws. This is because they have always enjoyed a disproportionate degree of influence, not only over the people but also in the political arena of Pakistan. The Council for Islamic Ideology (CII), for example, has often offered broad opposition to state policies to protect women. After calling these provincial laws “un-Islamic,” he proposed his own bill that upheld values ​​such as the right of husbands to “lightly beat” their wives. Three declarations of divorce by a woman justified a sanction and the prohibition to use contraceptives without the authorization of the husband were integral – and absurd – clauses which violated fundamental rights.
Even when the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill 2020 was introduced in the National Assembly (NA), religious fanatics were mistaken about how it would destroy family values ​​and be a violation of laws of Sharia. This backlash prompted the then prime minister’s adviser on parliamentary affairs, Babar Awan, to suggest sending the bill to the ICN for consideration. As expected, he was branded “un-Islamic” and ordered to be reconsidered. Since then, little progress has been made on this front despite the bill being comprehensive and going above and beyond to provide all the provisions that will make women feel safer. It clearly defines what domestic violence is and looks like, sets a minimum and maximum prison sentence and imposes fines. In addition to provincial laws, this bill would put in place the necessary legal and infrastructural framework to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice. However, not much can be done to pull him out of legal limbo due to a strangely intolerant mindset towards women.
There are countless other examples of laws that should be hailed as major achievements because they signify progress, however late or slow. Anti-rape laws were passed under which chemical castration was established as a punishment for the crimes of rape, and special courts were created to speed up trials that were to be concluded in four months. Then in 2021, Judge Ayesha A Malik of the Lahore High Court (LHC) ruled that the two-finger test was illegal, saying it only served to violate a woman’s dignity. The Protection from Harassment of Women in the Workplace Bill 2022 proposes provisions in the law that protect women working in the formal and informal sectors from harassment, abuse or manipulation. Even the loophole that allowed perpetrators of honor killings to seek forgiveness from family members for the killing was successfully closed after the killing of Qandeel Baloch. Obviously, it’s not as if we lack the capacity or the political will to create effective laws. The problem is the neglect of implementation, without which the changes are cosmetic at best.
Laws with immense potential are either condemned by religious authorities who also rally the public to their views, or they are simply not enforced. The reality is that chemical castration as a punishment is rarely rewarded. The lack of evidence still allows perpetrators to roam freely. Even solving the honor killing loophole was rather pointless as acquittal is just as easily obtained by differentiating the crime of an honor killing from murder, thus allowing Qisas and Diyat laws to apply. We have decent laws, but the executive bodies just don’t have what it takes to show their commitment to implementing them. Local and state authorities are well aware of their old habits of intolerance and ignorance, and they often act with impunity.
We live in a time where institutions like police stations that are not women-friendly are being normalized. Police officers frequently refuse to take a statement from a victim of domestic violence or rape, claiming that it is a private matter that should be handled at home. In cases where they listen to the victim, unsympathetic and accusatory comments are to be expected. This was illustrated quite perfectly when Lahore Capital Police Officer (CCPO), Umar Sheikh, said that the highway rape incident of 2020 – where a woman was raped under threat of a gun in front of her children – occurred because she was traveling late at night without her husband. He further stated that she should have planned her route carefully, should not have stopped the car, and should not have gotten out of it. Each comment was more absurd than the last and reflected the culture of victim blaming, especially when it comes to women, in Pakistan. If the default mindset is that women must somehow encourage these crimes to happen, then clearly we’re in an impossible situation where laws won’t do much unless that mindset don’t change. The law is only as good as the people who interpret it. It is therefore not surprising that unfair justice is the norm in Pakistan.
Every now and then there will be an example of a victim who has survived torture and who has spoken out. One such victim is Khadija Saddiqi who was stabbed 23 times by her attacker. The law, combined with the incompetent police force, let her down by giving discounts to the attacker who got out after serving a few months in prison for good behavior and donating blood. Someone who committed such a heinous crime surely deserves more time in detention to, at least, regret it. Discounts are undeniably important, but certainly part of ensuring justice is done. It is more incumbent on these agencies to enforce the law in a way that respects their essence and most of the time they fail to do so. Only three percent of all suspects in cases of domestic violence, rape and honor killings are ever convicted or charged. How has such a dire situation persisted over time, one has to wonder.
Perhaps what is allowing executive bodies to start operating again in the broken way they do is a severe lack of awareness of protective laws. The majority of women in Pakistan are so severely disadvantaged that they know little about the structure of the state and if they do, they are often bullied into submission by a patriarchal society or social pressures and taboos – the latter being ironically a by-product. From the old. Thus, there is little or no pressure on law enforcement or government to enforce the law or oversight to hold them accountable for times when they display a negligent attitude. Most women have just accepted the culture as it is and this is true not only for women from low-income backgrounds where education is unpopular, but also for those who belong to the elite strata of society. society. The internet has provided a platform through which greater mobilization is made possible, as seen in the case of Noor Mukadam, who experienced intense media coverage and mobilization on social media, due to positions of power held by the two families concerned, as well as the refusal of his friends. and the family to move back. Such support is often rare. But even so, digital media can only go so far. Careful investigation will show that we are trapped in a cycle that begins with news of the crime, massive public outrage, authorities scrambling to deal with the abusers, the case losing trial and media attention. decreases until another victim’s story comes out. after which, the loop repeats.
It’s only been 7 days since the callous murder of Sadija Tasneem was reported and it seems like we’ve forgotten about it, obsessing over the next breaking news or raising the alarm for another victim. It is a tragic cycle that must be broken.


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