Growing up in a south-Asian household, I often wondered why violence and abuse were so normalized against the women of my community. A good woman is not supposed to “speak up” if she gets hit by an intimate partner because it is considered a “family matter.” But God forbid she wants to stand up for herself and dissipate the toxic generation cycles and stand up against her abusers then she is considered a “bad woman”.
This toxic generational cycle has led men and women of our community to believe that domestic abuse, whether it is physical or verbal, is completely normal. In the past few years, domestic violence in Pakistan has significantly escalated, especially in rural areas.
Research shows that more than two-thirds of women in Pakistan have been victims of some kind of abuse
Although the issue of domestic violence is constantly highlighted in the media, not many organizations or government sectors are willing to take the chance to do something about helping domestic abuse victims.
Due to a lack of non-profit organizations and NGOs, many women spend their lives in silence for the fear of not being provided with security or safety due to ineffective police investigation and prosecution. Pakistan lags far behind than most developing countries in terms of gender equity and women’s safety.
What causes domestic violence in Pakistan?
Several factors can lead to domestic violence in Pakistan. Some of the many reasons why domestic violence arises can be due to disagreements between husband and wife, choice preferences, family issues, mental health issues, etc. Certain distinguished factors lead to an increased amount of domestic violence in Pakistan which can pose detrimental side effects to the mental and physical health of the victim.
A woman’s low educational level and a lack of political representation can result in a lack of women empowerment amongst the females in Pakistan. These conditions have led their abuser to believe that their wives should hold nothing but a “suppressed personality” throughout their marriage. In Pakistan, we rarely see women in leadership or political roles.
Some of the other reasons for domestic violence in Pakistan include a lack of financial stability and a lack of awareness amongst young girls about the rights they possess as human beings.
In Pakistan, girls are brought up from a young age with a belief that it is better to remain quiet in an abusive marriage than to get a divorce from one’s intimate partner even if he is verbally or physically abusive. This cultural belief has incorporated itself from generations. Young girls grow up watching their aunts and mothers being treated unfairly and believe that ‘it is normal” for a husband to slap his wife and it is not uncommon if she is verbally abused on a daily basis.
Due to the lack of financial independence, women bear abuse from their intimate partners because the perpetrators know that their wives have no means of financial security. If she seeks divorce from him, where will she go? How will she support herself? How will she live life without a stable job, a college degree, or relevant work experience?
Without proper financial independence, women become helpless and have no choice but to put up with their abusive marriage/relationship.
How common is domestic violence in Pakistan?
Domestic violence has been prevalent in Pakistan for the past few decades. Domestic abuse is real. It happens in rural areas and it happens in urban cities such as Karachi and Islamabad. Research in Karachi revealed that 34% of the female interviewees reported acing physical abuse when asked about it.
Another study in Pakistan conducted on a group of women revealed that approximately 99% of the housewives and 77% of working females were physically assaulted by their partners.
An interview session conducted on a group of men showed that all the participants agreed to have aggressively yelled or shouted at their wives, even when their partners were pregnant. Moreover, a 1999 report conducted in Karachi revealed that about 34% of females were physically abused by their spouses whereas 50% amongst those abused women were pregnant.
According to the UNODC report, 70 to 90 percent of women in Pakistan have experienced some form of physical, emotional, or psychological abuse from an intimate partner. Whereas the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant surge in domestic violence in Pakistan.
What can the government do to stop domestic violence in Pakistan?
An easy and immediate solution is to incorporate NGOs and take into serious consideration when women report domestic abuse cases instead of dismissing it as a “family matter.” A lack of non-profit organizations helping the domestically and sexually abused women of Pakistan has made it difficult to diminish any form of violence.
Oftentimes, abused women are hesitant to report their perpetrators to the police or to non-profit organizations due to the social stigma surrounded by societal pressures and oftentimes due to ineffective persecution or prosecution of the perpetrators.
No matter how much we try to deny the truth, but domestic violence exists. It exists in rural areas and it exists in urban areas. Many women spend their lives chained to the four walls of their homes in hopes of a miracle that would take them away from their cruel abuser and some women accept the violence because they know no other answer.
Girls are brought up with the belief to find the right “one,” and settle down before she expires
But what if that right person turns out to be abusive? What is that one person, they’ve been waiting to spend their whole lives with, ends up physically and verbally abusing her? Everyone prepares a girl to be a good housewife. But no one teaches her to look out for herself.
No one teaches her to be her own saviors, her own soulmate. We are all so inclined towards helping her be marriage-worthy, but we forget to teach her the harsh reality. We teach girls to love, but we don’t teach them to stop. We don’t teach them to let go of the ones who cause them pain, we do not teach them to walk away from a toxic person, or a toxic relationship. We teach them to stay quiet, because that’s what good girls do, right?
We teach our daughters to focus all their youth and 20s energy on nurturing themselves into the perfect wife. But we never train them to be a leader. We never teach them to put their studies before learning how to cook. We never teach our daughters to love themselves, even if someone else doesn’t.
Then we wonder why we have so many mentally unstable men and women in our communities who abuse and put up with abuses throughout their lives until one day they’re eighty years old, sitting on the hospital bed hoping they had lived their lives differently, hoping they would’ve walked away from that abusive relationship, hoping they would’ve taken that leap of faith.
If they had, would they had been happier? Would they have lived their lives without being abused? If we teach our daughters to stand tall against the abusers and to realize the rights they possess as human beings, wouldn’t we have fewer domestic abuse cases?
It takes effort to break generational trauma. However, with the current rise in domestic violence in Pakistan, it is difficult to say when domestic abuse will be completely dissipated from our society, which will require collective efforts from the masses.
The question arises, why is domestic violence in Pakistan so normalized? When will we stop diminishing the topic of men hitting their wives as a “family matter,” and start addressing it as a real issue that has been affecting millions of women worldwide?