By Muhammad Yousaf
LAHORE, Nov 19 (APP): Despite essential legislation and repeated efforts to control this menace, domestic violence still persists in societies worldwide – thanks to ignorance of people to religious and legal obligations and their deep entrenchment in primitive sociocultural norms.
It persisted as an insidious issue in our society for decades that transcends geographical, economic, racial, and cultural boundaries, inflicting its impact on women through verbal abuse, physical assault, beatings, and tragically sometimes even murder.
The repercussions extend far beyond mere physical injuries, reaching into the realms of compromised health, weakened psychological well-being and profound emotional distress. Unfortunately, our country is also not immune to this pervasive problem.
The roots of domestic violence are deeply embedded and multifaceted with factors like women’s low education, poverty, lack of awareness, misinterpretations of Islamic teachings and adherence to customary and prevalent cultural customs contributing to this menace.
Significantly, this issue disproportionately affects families in the lower socio-economic strata as men with higher education usually exhibiting a lower propensity to abuse their family women.
“Besides other factors, domestic violence against women is a case of failure of respective institutions in effective implementation of relevant laws,” remarked Sabahat Rizvi, Secretary Lahore High Court Bar Association.
“Being a law practitioner, I can validly attribute the increasing cases of domestic violence to a general tendency of overall lethargy by such institutions and a spirit of male dominance in society,” she added.
At the same time Sabahat argued that women’s welfare is not a government responsibility alone as she also pointed out a growing societal conservatism contributing to the rise in such incidents.
“Men, in their personal capacity, perceiving themselves as more powerful, engage in acts of violence against women,” she explained. “Therefore, the remedy lies in proper awareness of women and rigorously enforcing relevant legislation to curtail men.”
The Punjab government has taken several measures to counter this negativity on part of men folk and its detrimental consequences by establishing Punjab Women’s Helpline 1043 and Women Safety Mobile Application.
“These measures and landmark legislation manifest the commitment of the Punjab government to control and reverse the detrimental consequences of domestic violence,” said an official of the Punjab government.
In this context, he mentioned to introduction of the Punjab Protection of
Women against Violence Act (PPWVA) in 2016. “This act, following similar legislation in Sindh and Balochistan seeks to establish an effective system for protection, relief and rehabilitation of women facing violence, delineating a comprehensive code for its implementation.”
Under the provisions of PPWVA, the government is mandated to establish a universal toll-free complaints hotline, protection centers and shelter homes. These facilities serve as critical components for mediation, reconciliation, rescue operations, medical examinations, treatment and legal assistance for the aggrieved.
Mechanisms for periodic awareness campaigns among public servants and the creation of a robust database and software for monitoring and evaluation are also integral aspects of the legislation.
But, sill a lot is needed to be done in the field of implementation as even in the presence of effective legislation and other commendable measures, this grim reality still persists.
Gender Reality Report 2021 of the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women revealed no significant decrease in domestic violence during 2019 and 2020 even after five years of passage of the Act for protection of women.
Even during the regime of the claimant to create “Riasat-e-Medina,” Imran Khan, domestic violence showed an upward trend in cases encompassing murder, attempted murder and incidents of domestic beating.
Lahore, the provincial capital, reported the highest number of cases, underscoring the widespread nature of the issue. Alarmingly, some districts reported none, potentially indicating underreporting or lack of awareness among women about reporting mechanisms. The most common form of domestic violence in Punjab had been ‘beating.’
Sarah Shiraz, Punjab Resident Director of Aurat Foundation mentions to multiple factors behind the ongoing violence against women. “We face critical challenges in the implementation of laws against domestic violence.”
Then there is a significant hurdle is the form of lack of awareness among women regarding their rights under this legislation, she said. “Even when women are aware, navigating the bureaucratic maze for grievance redressal proves to be a formidable challenge.”
She further remarked, “The institutions responsible for addressing grievances often lack a focused approach, leading to victims to shuttle from one place to another without satisfactory resolution.”
Sarah emphasized an urgent need for collaborative efforts between the government departments and civil society to combat this menace. “A holistic approach focusing on awareness raising, laws implementation, accessible support systems and streamlined grievance redressal is essential.”
She also stressed to focus on women’s education to educate them about their rights and the means to seek assistance.
The battle against domestic violence in Punjab is far from over and a multifaceted, collaborative approach is imperative to foster a society where women are safe, empowered and free from the scourge of domestic violence.
To achieve this goal, there is a dire need for law enforcement agencies, the clergy, civil society and non-governmental organizations to join hands for ensuring that women fully enjoy their rights and live in a violence-free atmosphere.