Mamarha Afridi

PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, particularly the newly merged tribal districts, have high rate of gender discrimination in Pakistan. Talking about newly merged tribal districts, women they are even deprived of basic human rights like right to education, health and freedom of expression.

In Pakistan, three provinces have enacted laws against domestic violence, but KP is yet to do the needful.

Maulana Tariq Jamil, eminent Pakistani religious scholar, blames the corona pandemic on female dressing. On the national media, he said one of the causes of COVID-19 is the girls not wearing proper clothes. He gave the same comment after the 2008 earthquake.

Humaira, 17, from Khyber district said domestic violence has increased since the outbreak of COVID-19. She said that the household females are facing more violence as compared to working women. She said male members of the family remain at home all the times due to lockdown and they vent their frustration on women.

393 domestic violence cases reported

During lockdown, 393 cases  of domestic violence have been reported with the Directorate of Human Rights.

KP Ombudsperson Rakhshanda Naz told TNN that complaints are being received from merged areas too. She said cases are being reported from areas like DI Khan, Bannu and even from Parachinar. She added that as there is no internet access in these areas, so most of the cases remain unreported.

KP Domestic Violence Bill

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Domestic Violence Bill was tabled in the provincial assembly during the ANP-PPP coalition government in August 2012. The JUI-F lawmaker Mufti Kifayatullah at that time raised objection over the bill by asking the speaker to refer it to Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).

Former MNA Jamila Gilani told TNN that when the religio-political parties raised objection against the bill, all female lawmakers and women rights activists arranged meetings with the opponents of the bill. She said the meeting was supposed to be fruitful, but it ended up in further divide.

The bill was passed unanimously by the National Assembly in 2009, but lapsed in the Senate.  The lawmakers had held consultations with key stakeholders before sending the bill to the National Assembly for vote. The bill couldn’t be passed in the joint sitting because of JUI-F’s objections.

Bushra Gohar, former MNA, told TNN that Pakhtunkhwa women members played significant role in building consensus on the domestic violence bill. She was also a member of the parliamentary committee formed by the speaker and chaired by the PPP leader Khursheed Shah to evolve consensus and get the bill passed unanimously in the joint sitting of the Parliament.

The JUI F’s objections were that the bill promotes western values.

Domestic violence is common in merged districts

Najma, 49, a housewife from Landikotal while talking to TNN said that she was 15 years old when she got married. She said her husband was 13 years old at that time. She said everyone would tell her husband that she is two years older than him and he should control her.

“He would beat me every day, even sometimes twice or thrice a day to make me accept his dominance. I never spoke in even loud voice to him as if he would feel insecure due to my age. If I were in a Western country, I would have been the world strongest wrestler due to enduring so much torture,” she said while laughing off at her miseries.

Najma added that when she told her mother that her husband beat her daily by showing the torture marks, her mother told her: “Be patient, I believe you will change him and make him a good guy. You have married her. You should have commitment to live and die in his house.”

Bolo Helpline

The KP government has launched social welfare directorate helpline – Bolo Helpline 0800-22227 –to prevent violence against women and facilitate them in all emergency situations.

The current government of the PTI seems to be committed to passing the Women Protection Bill. As in the previous government, the bill passage is facing resistance from the religio-political parties.

The current government drafted the bill after a thorough consultation with CII, but the bill is still not passed as again the lawmakers of religious parities have opted for changes in it.

The bill was tabled in the provincial assembly in 11 February, 2019. In October 2019, the lawmakers of JUI-F and Jl raised objections over it. After the tabling of the bill, the JI parliamentary leader Inayatullah Khan and the JUI-F’s Maulana Lutfur Rehman took the floor asking the speaker to delay the passage of the bill.

Inayatullah on the floor of the Assembly objected to transfer of victim girls to shelter homes. And he demanded that a committee comprising relatives of the victims and the accused be constituted to resolve issue of women.

When Humaira was asked if the law was passed, would she go to file a complaint against the accused person? Her answer was still in the negative. She said her brother used to beat her regularly and upon complaint to her mother her brother even became more angry and hit her with a stone on her head due to which she was badly injured and her vision was blurred.

She also proposed amendment on the bill regarding the word ‘women’. She said only the woman is declared “victim” and children and other house members should also be included in the bill. He said the word “aggrieved person” is used for victims of domestic violence in Sindh Domestic Violence Act 2013 which means any woman, child or any vulnerable person being subjected to any act of domestic violence.

80% women in merged districts don’t report violence

More than 80% of women in merged districts did not seek any help or tell anyone about domestic violence.

A man indulging in domestic violence believes that violence is a way to show power and women must be kept under control. One such man interviewed also blamed coronavirus outbreak on women going out of control. He said every man should show his power to every woman and they must always be in kept in control to keep the society pure.

Sana Ejaz, a human rights activist, told TNN that patriarchal system is in vogue since centuries. She said activists all over the world are struggling to bring change in this system and abolished it. She said the concept of keeping the women confined within the boundary walls of the house is depriving women of their basic rights.

Ratio of domestic violence higher in merged districts

Percentage of women who have experienced violence is highest in merged districts which is at 66%.

Cleric believes men dominance brings balance in society

A local cleric termed it propaganda of few liberal feminists. He said they are provoking females to betray the Islamic society. He said these kind of law is polluting our society. He said that history is testimony to the fact that a good home, and a good society is where male is dominant and respected. He insisted that domestic violence is the personal matter of every family and no one should interfere. The cleric said a good man is who do not beat women. He said the Holy Prophet (PBUH) did not like domestic violence.

Many women accept violence as their fate

Sana Ejaz said domestic violence is everywhere, but the ratio is different. She said women often ignore violence and keep silent, and accept it as their fate. she said there is need to discourage violence and promote women’s rights through positive changes in education curriculum.

Women prefer not seeking share in property

When Najma was asked about her land and property, she said life is much dearer to her than inheriting land. “We are thankful to our siblings when we go to their home as they keep their doors open for us. But that won’t be the case if we seek share in property. We do not want the doors of male siblings to close for us. Our relations are much dearer to us than our share in land,” she said.

Najma said domestic violence happens due to women’s own fault. She said a girl is trained from the very beginning to endure violence with patience and not to complain.

According to survey and research conducted in merged districts by UN women in 2019-20, the percentage of women who justify wife beating under any ‘special circumstances’ is highest in newly merged districts which is at alarming 95%.