Violence against women (VAW), also known as gender-based violence, is violent acts that are primarily or exclusively committed against <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman> women. Sometimes it is considered as a <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hate_crime> hate crime.

This type of violence targets a specific group with the victim's <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender> gender as a primary motive and is eventually gender-based, meaning that the acts of violence are committed against women and girls expressly because of their gender.

The UN <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_on_the_Elimination_of_Violence_Against_Women> Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women states that: "Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women" and that "violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men”.

 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kofi_Annan> Kofi Annan, former <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secretary-General_of_the_United_Nations> Secretary-General of the United Nations, declared in a 2006 report posted on the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Development_Fund_for_Women United Nations Development Fund for Women(UNIFEM) website that:

Violence against women and girls is a problem of <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandemic> pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime with the abuser usually someone known to her.

As such, violence against women and Honour Killings are serious human rights violation and are condemned throughout the world. To raise awareness and trigger action to end this global scourge, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is observed on 25th November every year.

Sometime, it takes a tragedy to jolt people into action against an injustice and such was the case when, on November 25, 1960, the three Mirabel sisters, Patria, Minerva and María, were assassinated on the orders of Rafael Trujillo, a Dominican politician, who ruled the Dominican Republic from February 1930 until his assassination in May 1961.

Minerva, who was a lawyer, wanted to rid their country of dictatorship and also to fight violence against women. As such, Minerva, along with her sisters formed a group 'Las Mariposas' (the butterflies) and fought clandestinely to expose Trujillo’s crimes. Six months after the Mirabel sisters' death, Trujillo was assassinated by one of his associates.

Las Mariposas resistance against tyranny and fight for democracy and violence against women inspired the UN General Assembly to designate 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Then on 6 December 1989, a student at the University of Montreal killed 14 female students. Distressed by this incident, a group of men from Toronto decided to work to stop violence against women. The White Ribbon Movement came into being as a result of their efforts and now, civil rights organisations hold an awareness-raising event (White Ribbon Day) between 25 November and 6 December every year. This year's theme is “Orange the World: Raise Money to End Violence against Women and Girls.”

According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) 900 rapes and sexual assaults were reported in 2015 in addition to 279 instances of domestic violence, 143 of burning, 833 of kidnapping and 777 of suicide and attempted suicide.

Also, during 2015, the report showed 987 honour crimes, with 1,096 female victims and 88 male victims, including an unknown number of children. The report is based on the complaints lodged with the police. Sadly, most victims of abuse and rape are afraid to go to police.

Unfortunately, violence against women is a norm in our society and seeking redress against it is considered even a greater crime. A woman who wants to lodge a complaint against her father, brother or husband has to face stiff resistance. Family members and the police try their level best to stop the women from lodging an FIR (First Information Report).

Aurat Foundation estimates that 8,500 women face violation in the country every year - the majority of these cases are of domestic violence, which takes place inside the home. Domestic abuse can be physical, emotional or psychological and can happen to anyone, anywhere.

The most unfortunate aspect of domestic violence is that people tend to blame the abused woman who is accused of not doing her job properly and therefore needs to be punished and thus deserves the beatings. Every day we hear of a woman being raped, a girl disfigured by acid, or burnt to death or women killed in the name of honour. Meanwhile, countless women also suffer endlessly at the hands of their male family members.

In difficult marital situations, the suffering of girls is not taken seriously and they are told by their parents to bear the hardships in silence, for divorce would bring dishonour to the family. This situation is not limited to the lower or middle classes, as women of upper middle and upper classes also put up with a lot of suffering to save their marriages.

In view of the rising violence against women, the Punjab Assembly passed the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act 2015, which, sadly, was termed un-Islamic by the Council of Islamic Ideology (CCI).

Even Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the chief of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, said the law was in conflict with both Islam and the constitution of Pakistan and at a press conference, he said, "This law makes a man insecure." Only a man who is a coward will feel insecure at the passage of legislation to protect women!

Also, the National Assembly passed a bill against honour killing on 6 October 2016, plugging a loophole to prevent the murderer getting off scot-free. People who kill in the name of honour will still have to serve life imprisonment even if the victim's relatives forgive the murderer.

Marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25, the Sindh Assembly unanimously passed a resolution, calling on the provincial government to take necessary measures to prevent physical and mental abuse of women.

The resolution reads, “The Sindh Assembly remembers 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and demands that the Sindh government take measures to control it”.

“This House also commits to providing basic rights to women and condemns mental and physical torture on women. This House also commits that all possible laws will be framed to provide basic rights to women of Sindh. This House should also commit to providing equal status to women politically and socially in all of Sindh.”

Now that the above resolution has been passed and adopted, one can only hope and pray that an appropriate law will be passed soon and that it will be enforced in letter and spirit. But unfortunately, our past track record indicates that this is never the case.

trust@helplinetrust.org.pk