NationalVOLUME 19 ISSUE # 13

Domestic violence still remains unreported

Ali Hassan says he came across a painful incident last week which was almost a perfect re-enactment of an incident he had witnessed 40 years ago, when he was a teenager. On that day, he was sitting on charpoys in the large courtyard of their village home, along with his parents and other siblings late in the evening when they heard the screams of a woman and loud shouting by a man, who was perhaps beating her in the street.

“Jeej (Abdul Aziz) is again having fits of beating Bilquis (his wife); he is taking her to her parents house to leave her there,” Ali Hassan’s mother grumbled while looking at his father and her children. “No one is there to stop that goon, Jeej. Poor Bilquis; her parents are also helpless. Every time they have to send their daughter back to the home of the goon when the ‘biradari’ pressurises them for it,” her mother’s moaning continued for a while, until he went to sleep, with a feeling of pain in his heart for the poor woman.

Ali Hassan says the cries of Bilquis, and some other such women of his village, who had to face beatings by their husbands and sometimes fathers and brothers, kept echoing in his mind for years, though he had shifted to Lahore soon after matriculation in his village school.

Last week, when he was visiting his first cousin in his native village in Bahawalpur district, in connection with the wedding ceremony of his son, he again heard the screams of ‘Bilquis’. Sitting under a sheesham tree along with the family of his cousin in the afternoon, he heard a woman wailing and crying in the street, and a man hurling filthy abuses at her and perhaps also beating her. Ali Hassan’s bhabhi (sister-in-law) told him that the couple was living in their neighbourhood, and it was a routine after every second week for the last almost one year.

The couple has two children; the woman does not want to live with her husband. Whenever she goes to her parents’ home, she refuses to return to her husband’s home. Then he mostly brings her home dragging on the street, and sometimes slapping her mercilessly. That woman’s parents also want her not to get a divorce, as they are already finding it hard to marry off their other four daughters, explained his bhabhi. The matter is never reported to the police, as neither the parents of the man nor of the woman support the idea. Whenever, the ill-fated woman reaches her parents’ home after getting a beating, she has to return to her husband due to the pressure of the biradari and her parents.

Justice (retd) Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed says there is nothing surprising in it that a large number of women do not lodge a complaint with the police after getting beatings at the hands of their husbands and other male members of the family. The retired judge of the apex court, who is known for expertise in criminal law, made a startling revelation on the basis of a non-governmental organisation’s data that 75% of domestic violence and harassment cases are not reported to the police.

He was speaking at a national conference on judicial response to cases of gender-based violence, jointly organised by the Federal Judicial Academy and Legal Aid Society. A senior judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Qazi Faez Isa, believes that giving respect and rights to women by their own families is more important, as merely making legislation cannot serve the purpose. Speaking at the conference, he said creating awareness among families about rights of women was crucial, and only that awareness could lead to the implementation of women rights-related laws.

The judge wondered why almost all our laws were enacted in the English language when a huge majority of our population could not read and understand it. He questioned as to why such laws were not being made in the Urdu language for the benefit of ordinary citizens of the country. Referring to a piece of legislation, Justice Qazi Faez Isa said that it took 27 years to rectify an act of rape, which was codified as Zina Bil Jabr. He questioned as to who would answer to Allah for the brutality faced by women during this period.

Justice (retd) Nasira Javed told the audience that the cases of women affected by domestic violence and harassment should be conducted under special arrangements while they should be decided within two months. She stressed that NGOs, instead of holding functions and seminars on rights of women, should utilise their resources to provide legal aid to affected women.