Physical torture, abuse, forced abductions, sexual harassment, forced marriages, and other brutal practices are everyday events in the Islamic republic of Pakistan. Women in Pakistan still face daunting hardships in the male-dominated society. Although seemingly every other day the government announces plans to secure the rights of women — it has been of no use. Torture incidents are still the highlight of the media on a regular basis.
The year 2010 saw cases of severe torture and killings that shattered Pakistani society. According to a report by the NGO Madadgaar, which was created to make “the life of poor and low-income people easier,” and published in the daily The Nation, at least 665 women committed suicide, 1,672 women were murdered, and 441 faced police torture during the prior year.
By way of comparison, 392 men lost their lives in killings, 340 faced police torture, and 501 committed suicide; and 728 children were murdered, 417 faced torture, and 183 committed suicide during the same period.
The report stated that the research-based Madadgaar Helpline has been compiling data on the violation of the rights of women and children in Pakistan for the last 10 years.
The report indicated that during the last year, 539 women were raped and then killed. An additional 179 women were raped by individuals but their lives were spared, while 133 were gang-raped. As many as 296 women fell prey to the dark custom of Karo-kari, "honor killings" done to restore family honor after a woman exhibits “indecent behavior”: insisting on choosing her own spouse, flirting, seeking a divorce, or being raped. One hundred fifteen women were burned. Five hundred thirty-five women were also kidnapped. Forty-one women were trafficked, while the number of forced marriages and Vani cases (child marriages) hovered at 46 and 29, respectively. Overall, 5,391 cases of violence against women and girls were reported in 2010.
A United Nations High Commission of Refugees report placed the number of honor killings at a far higher number, with 960 incidents reported in 2010.
The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill, unanimously passed by the National Assembly in August 2009, lapsed after the Senate failed to pass it within three months as required under Pakistan's constitution.
To try to halt the crimes, in September the Punjab Law Minister announced that crimes against women would be tried under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Also, according to the United Nation High Commission of Refugees report:
• In NWFP and the tribal areas, Taliban groups closed or burned down girls' schools, forced women to wear a veil, and prohibited them from leaving their homes unless accompanied by male relatives. Several women were punished, shot dead or mutilated for alleged "immoral" activities. Legal redress sought for abuses of women's rights remained difficult to obtain.
• On 27 April, Ayman Udas, a Pashtun singer from Peshawar, was shot dead, reportedly by her two brothers who viewed her divorce, remarriage and artistic career as damaging to family honour. No one was arrested.
• The federal Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, announced that “The Women Protection Act 2006” has been promulgated and necessary penal sections have been amended and added in Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) for the protection of rights of women.
• Nine police stations [operated by women and for the protection of women] have already been established where female police officers are dealing with the cases of the women.
• To protect women from gender harassment, all the female accused are being kept under the custody of female police officers.
In March of last year, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gillani also announced that a women’s ombudsman office will also be established that would help to eliminate biased attitudes against women.
But the crimes go on: During the period, 623 cases of beating were reported. Honor killings numbered in the hundreds. Twenty-four women were burned by acid, and one case of stove-burning was reported. Some 1,611 cases of sexual assault were also reported during this time period. The data revealed that 2,309 other minor cases of violence against women were also registered.
The incidence of violence against females remains high, and though the suppressed women of the society look toward the implementation of new laws to protect their rights and bring them respect, no law can stop a propensity to violence that is ingrained into a people from infancy. Only in places where women are already respected do laws to undo perceived injustice and safeguard women from violence actually work. Only a change in the culture of the country will lower the incidence of violence.