Protection against violence – 08 Apr 2023

The state needs to do more than just pay lip service to ensure women’s safety and freedom

Pakistan ranks among the most dangerous countries for women in the world. This is exemplified by the high rate of crimes against women including rape, honour killings, acid attacks, etc. In yet another gut-wrenching incident, a woman named Anam was allegedly set ablaze by her husband over a marriage dispute in Tehsil Arifwala earlier this week. Within the last 5 years, several women have been set on fire with most dying on the spot while others succumbing to serious injuries later.

Despite the existence of a range of laws that claim to safeguard women’s rights and safety, perpetrators are quick to resort to different forms of violence against women. Perhaps, this is a sign for our policymakers and legislators to ponder over what is going wrong. Many a time, women are unable to gauge the level of danger they are in because it is usually their husbands and in-laws or fathers and brothers who are the perpetrators. In Anam’s case, neighbours had witnessed ongoing domestic violence, but most people in our society seldom intervene in other people’s marital affairs as it is considered a ‘personal issue’ of the couple. Often police adhere to similar ideas and urge victims to resolve their disputes on their own. This puts victims at grave risk, especially in the absence of widespread facilities to provide vulnerable women with legal representation and shelter.

Laws will remain ineffective until and unless they are implemented widely. Police forces need to be trained and sensitised to deal with cases of domestic violence. Besides improving awareness about laws and legal protection for women through tailored campaigns, these services should be regularly updated and staffed to ensure long-term assistance. Comprehensive support mechanisms for women will not only ensure their safety but also help debunk regressive and misogynistic norms and ideas. The state needs to do more than just pay lip service to ensure women’s safety and freedom.

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