Gender-based violence is one of the numerous issues that seem to be perpetually enrtrenched and are a universal problem. Despite the fact that this issue is a worldwide threat and has socioeconomic underpinnings that determine its severity, each nation faces specific difficulties.
In addition to poverty, illiteracy, and a lack of awareness, Pakistan faces high incidence of gender-based violence because of the serious societal regarding this issue. The actions conducted by non-governmental and civil society organisations are frequently criticised and labelled as being liberal and/or anti-Islamic in nature (that cannot be further from the truth). Because of this, the societal support necessary for the success of remedial programmes is quite limited.
In terms of combating gender-based violence or violence against women, the World Economic Forum ranked Pakistan as the third worst performer. Pakistan hasn’t done as well as expected in its recent Gender Parity Report. 93% of Pakistani women, reportedly encounter sexual violence at some point in their life. With so many laws and legislation issued by Pakistan’s federal and provincial governments to reduce violence against women, this is a worrying situation.
Due to a variety of cultural, societal, and religious factors that contribute to women’s perceived vulnerability, gender-based violence is pervasive. In South Asia, generally Pakistan, where patriarchal system is dominant, women are seen as marginalised segment. Intense gender inequities formed and then reinforced by gendered cultural norms and behaviors threaten the empowerment of women. The dominant socioeconomic factors of gender injustice, poverty, inequality, etc., express the subjugated and submissive status of women.
The daily news coverage of horrifying crimes against women, lack of access to basic human development resources and opportunities, and no representation in decision-making illustrates women’s submissive and disempowered status. In this regard, gender discrimination in all forms that is oppressive and coercive renders women a marginalised segment of society, is in need of desperate attention. According to various studies, the patriarchal ideas and gendered power structures that are used to control women in Pakistan are due to women being less independent.
The absence of economic empowerment regarding women is considered to be the cause of many social ills by stakeholders, including key informants and community people. The primary cause of violence against women is attributed to poverty, which results in the denial of essentials and sows societal resentment. Different violent attitudes then develop as a result of this frustration. Women are inevitably the target of this resentment since they represent a weaker group in society. Poverty is associated with an increase in sexual assault and other forms of violence against women. Economic hardship and social injustice both contribute to the rage and violence on a collective basis.
Lack of financial resources defers the importance of obtaining education. Resultantly, uneducated women are less aware of their rights and hence more likely to experience violence and abuse. Economic instability in the community can lead to women being sexually exploited or compelled to labor jobs they do not want to do.
In a society built on cultural and normative behavior dominated by men, the gender system defines and dictates the roles, statuses, and expectations of women. If a woman deviates from or does not uphold the patriarchal norms and practices that are given to men, she is stigmatised culturally and, in most circumstances suffers from physical, mental, emotional, and structural assault. The various forms of structural and cultural violence, such as karo-kari, swara, vani — exchanges of girls to make amends and settle tribal disputes — murder, torture, rape, workplace sexual harassment, domestic violence, forced marriages, young marriages, acid throwing and divorce, reflect violence against women.
Another element that has a high correlation with the occurrence of gender-based violence is the absence of a functional legal system. Rape, for instance, frequently goes unreported since it is a taboo to discuss it and the justice system is weak. Thus, the criminals are more likely to commit the same crime again, if they get away with it in the first instance. Even though their identities are known, some perpetrators of such violence against women escape justice because they are powerful individuals, legal system is ineffective, or the crime is not seen as a serious offence by the society.
Another way that women may be mistreated is the prevalence of fractured families. Young girls who have left their homes for various reasons are substantially more at risk. According to research, daughters who grow up in broken families are seven times more likely to experience violence and sexual abuse.
Women’s rights are suppressed as a result of society’s discriminatory attitudes toward them, and they are prevented from playing a part in the establishment of institutions for the state and society. In order to secure a socially progressive community, women’s social, political, and legal empowerment must be the main goal and top priority.
In order to start a new conversation on gender-based violence in Pakistan, it is crucial to recognise that changes should begin at the grassroots level. This will contribute to a significant shift in how steps are taken to combat violence against women. An approach like this may involve educating the local population about gender-based violence issues like domestic violence prevention, the need to report harassment, and reproductive health concerns. This will not only contribute to changing the cultural norms and values held by both sexes, but it will also pave the way for further discussion and eventually actions that can be taken to address gender-based violence. Additionally, engaging with women will help them become more aware of their own rights and less vulnerable to assault.
To lower the prevalence of gender-based violence in the Pakistan, it is crucial to establish a well-structured system that can respond to survivors. Efficient systems can ensure that survivors do not feel alone or embarrassed and instead feel like a valued member of the community. Pakistan must make changes to its laws and policies and mechanisms of implementation. It is crucial to develop, update, and put these laws, along with new ones, into effect.
In Pakistan, violence against women is now a significant social and legal issue. Given how serious the problem is, it demands a collaborative effort from all the stakeholders, including the government, social scientists, and civil society organisations and most importantly women themselves who have immense power to shape the future generations and the norms and values they will live with. HH
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