Women’s rights is still an issue


by Desi Italiana
18th December, 2007 at 4:56 am    

Since November, most of the world’s attention has been on the “Emergency” (or rather, martial law) in Pakistan. And rightfully so. But the media has barely mentioned the grueling realities that still take place in Pakistan. The Trend Analysis of Human Rights Violations in 2005-2006 report by the formidable Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (whose chairwoman Asma Jehangir was placed under house arrest by Musharraf and accused of being “quite an unbalanced character“) found that there was a “substantial increase in human rights violations from 2005 to 2006.”

The key findings were:

  • In the category of “killings,” which includes honor killings, adultery killings, and murder unrelated to the two former types, 2006 saw a 29% increase in cases since 2005. In general killings, 91% of all victims were women. The majority of women killed were married, and the primary reason for killings were for adultery. Most of the accused were the women’s husbands. Honor killings rose by 24%, though the number of cases is likely to be underreported.
  • Rape and gang-rape increased by 129% in 2006, and most of the women raped are married.  Rape cases involving minors doubled since 2005. HRCP points out that “the accused in the rape cases are predominantly influential people in the
    community or landlords with the highest number of rapists in both 2005 and 2006, residents of the victim’s community.”
  • Kidnapping cases also doubled since 2005, usually at the hands of  an “acquaintance”, “local resident”, “neighbour” and “close-relative,” as well as the government, especially post September 2001. There has also been an increase in abduction and forced religious conversation of Hindu and Christian female minors who are then married off to older Muslim men.
  • Burning, stove related burns and acid throwing increased, with the latter doubling, with husbands once again the primary culprits.
  • Suicides and attempted suicides increased by 44.5%.Only in this category are the majority of victims men. For Christians and
    Hindus, there was a 145% increase.The most common reasons for suicide/attempted suicide were domestic problems, “admonishment,” and unemployment. The percentage of minors committing or attempting suicide rose as well. The most preferred method was to poison themselves with pesticides.

These findings, along with the fact that bonded labor is still very much a problem in Pakistan, should not be left unseen.

We should also not overlook the fact that violence against women and desperation are not confined to Pakistan; they are happening across borders. Before we spiral into the rhetoric of “Islam is the root of all social evils in South Asia,” keep in mind that the Hindu fundamentalists are doing their share by kidnapping Hindu women who marry “outside of the community“- that is, women who married Muslim men or men of a different caste. Many Hindu women are “rescued” and remanded to a sorts of custody homes in an effort to tear them from their heathen husbands, as Amitava Kumar reports in his book Husband of a Fanatic. Hindu-Muslim couples have been targeted by fundamentalists as well. And of course, there were the barbaric atrocities against Gujarati Muslim women in 2002, as well as the murder of both Gujarati men and women who dared to marry spouses from religions different from their own.

Finally, both India and Bangladesh, like Pakistan, have the acid throwing problem in which women are the overwhelming victims.

So while it is important to keep tabs on the General/President, it is equally important to remember the everyday brutalities and injustices that the people of Pakistan face. But let’s not forget that India and Bangladesh are afflicted with the same problems as well. And while the manipulation of religion and using religion as a tool to terrorize others are certainly problems, we need to note the socio-economic factors as well. There’s something to be said about the Pakistani men who commit suicide because of a bleak present and hopeless future.

Not all is lost. In 2002, thousands of Bangladeshi men marched in Dhaka to protest acid attacks against women. Let’s hope that more men voice their resistance to patriarchal mentalities and demonstrate their solidarity with their female counterparts when it comes to violence against women.

——————–
This is a guest post. Desi Italiana blogs here.


              Post to del.icio.us


Filed in: Culture,India,Pakistan,Religion,South Asia






15 Comments below   |  

Reactions: Twitter, blogs


  1. Rumbold — on 18th December, 2007 at 11:43 am  

    Brilliant piece Desi. Why do you think that there has been such a big increase in violence recently?

  2. Sofia — on 18th December, 2007 at 4:20 pm  

    thought provoking piece…there’s a theory out there about womens’ prosperity and rights going hand in hand with the way men feel about themselves…
    not sure what the reason is for this increase..it’s tragic though…

  3. Desi Italiana — on 18th December, 2007 at 6:07 pm  

    Rumbold:

    “Why do you think that there has been such a big increase in violence recently?”

    I’m not sure, to be honest. One of the factors would be obviously the political situation, but that certainly doesn’t explain everything (it probably explains the suicides, see above in my post). It would be difficult to assess the social, political, religious, and economic factors to gage how much all these aspects go into spurting of violence (and HRCP points out how even many of the numbers they provide in all categories are likely to be underreported).

    In all of the things I reported above, what stood out (for me) was:

    1. the exceptional increase in suicides for religious minorities, namely Hindus and Christians.

    2. the dramatic increase in rape and gang rape, with perpetrators being influential people.

    3. most of the victims of violence are married women, with their husbands being the main culprits.

    Sofia:

    “there’s a theory out there about womens’ prosperity and rights going hand in hand with the way men feel about themselves”

    Hmmm… not sure, seeing that in the cases of rape, the rapists are actually zamindars and “influential” folks.

    I wonder where the cases of violence were greater: in certain districts, urban centers, etc? That might help better understand the why’s and how’s….

  4. Rumbold — on 18th December, 2007 at 7:46 pm  

    Desi:

    “I’m not sure, to be honest. One of the factors would be obviously the political situation, but that certainly doesn’t explain everything.”

    Exactly. I cannot understand why a suspension of democracy would lead to more rapes and ‘honour’ killings. Perhaps either the recording of such crimes is getting more accurate, or there has been a collapse in the police’s power in these affected places.

  5. Desi Italiana — on 18th December, 2007 at 8:50 pm  

    Rumbold:

    “I cannot understand why a suspension of democracy would lead to more rapes and ‘honour’ killings.”

    Yup, I agree with you, though I do think there is something to be said about 1) the very short reach of the law; 2) the law being subverted and 3) scarce accountability of those who commit acts. But yes, I agree with you, suspension of democracy doesn’t explain everything.

    I’ve posted a comment on the HRCP’s blog, asking them if they have figures on where these acts take place the post- which province, which district, which places, etc. That, I think, might help us better understand the situation. I’m not sure if HRCP has the time to exchange research etc with bloggers who use a handle name, but it doesn’t hurt to try and ask them :)

  6. Desi Italiana — on 18th December, 2007 at 8:51 pm  

    “asking them if they have figures on where these acts take place the POST”

    oops, typo: not “post” but most

  7. Desi Italiana — on 18th December, 2007 at 10:42 pm  

    “there has been a collapse in the police’s power in these affected places.”

    Well, the police has been known to abuse its powers and turning a blind eye to what is going on, including women’s cases.

  8. HRCP — on 19th December, 2007 at 8:46 am  

    Dear All,

    I see a slight confusion amongst the readers in understanding the time span for this trend analysis. It is not for the current year but for the year 2005. jan 2005-jan 2006.

    I have added below my answers to the bloggers query
    **********

    · Desi Italiana Says:
    December 18, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    Hello,
    I was wondering whether you can tell us whether some provinces, districts, cities, villages, etc have more incidences of each of the types of human rights violations you mention above. If so, I’d very much appreciate that.
    Thank you.

    · HRCP Says:
    December 19, 2007 at 10:30 am

    Good to see you back on our blog!
    About your query – we collect information from over 22 English and Urdu newspapers daily, as well as take reports sent in by our offices and core groups all over the country. Even then our data is still a percentage of what the reality is. Since the coverage of Punjab is much wider in newspapers our statistics are naturally higher too. If you’re interested in detailed stats maybe you can call in at the office at talk to the database officer.
    Also, the HRCP Annual Report 2007 will be released in late Jan where you can read up on the the entire year’s human rights situation and statistics. The website will also be updated with 2007 stats once the report is out, and I will definitely post the information on the blog.

    · Desi Italiana Says:
    December 19, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Thank you for responding!
    One of the commentators on Pickled Politics (where I wrote about the Trend Analysis report) asked a very good question: Why has there been such a big increase in violence recently? I thought that if we knew more about where most of these cases were occurring, that might help us understand the situation better. Or it might very well be that there is more awareness right now, and thus more reporting on these issues than in the past.
    I look forward to the Annual Report.

    · HRCP Says:
    December 19, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    Much of it is due to an increase in awareness that has led to more cases being reported and more coverage in the print and electronic media, but violence in Pakistan is also growing due to the inefficiencies of the law. Bills are passed and laws are made but the implementation remains very poor. Most police stations are not aware of simple procedures in dealing with reported crimes – especially violence against women. In situations of a domestic violence complaint they are not aware if the law even covers it or not. Unfortunately, the Women’s Protection Bill too has done nothing to change the scenario. The only changes that have been made are procedural, which does not offer relief to the victims.
    As for a rise in suicides, including attempts, we have generally noted that unemployment and financial constraints have been the main reasons, then being followed by matrimonial and family issues. It is very disturbing to see a very high number of youth and children attempting/committing suicides. Reasons vary from being being scolded at home, to spurned love or doing unwell in their exams.
    What is important to know is that human rights crimes are spreading fast because perpetrators believe that they will not be caught and punished. Many cultural practices, that were initially common in specific areas of the country, are now being practiced in cosmopolitan cities as well. Issues of inheritance, property and money are easily dealt with by committing a crime and then labeling it as an honor saving move.

    ****
    http://www.hrcpblog.wordpress.com
    http://www.hrcp-web.org

  9. HRCP — on 19th December, 2007 at 11:00 am  

    You might also like to have a look at this. This was in June 2007. It sort of points out how the system lacks in prevention of the crimes and why the rate is increasing.

    U.N. women’s rights group criticized Pakistan for honor killings, trafficking
    http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/06/08/news/UN-GEN-UN-Womens-Rights.php

  10. Desi Italiana — on 19th December, 2007 at 6:17 pm  

    Dear HRCP,

    Thank you very much for posting comments here!

    I don’t think there is any confusion about the time span (I wrote that the analysis is for 2005-2006), but we were wondering what were the other dimensions to the trends you looked into. But comment #8 is informative. Two things that jumped out at me:

    1. “What is important to know is that human rights crimes are spreading fast because perpetrators believe that they will not be caught and punished.” This is very dire, and I think it be a substantial root to the problem.

    2. “Many cultural practices, that were initially common in specific areas of the country, are now being practiced in cosmopolitan cities as well. Issues of inheritance, property and money are easily dealt with by committing a crime and then labeling it as an honor saving move.”

    So it is possible that what gets culled under “honor killings” might not actually be an honor killings?

    Also, we had this other discussion on another thread about the definition of “honor killings.” If you have time, how do you define honor killings?

    ***

    The link you provided in comment #9 brought up tribal courts- an element that I didn’t think of until I read it in this article.

    Once again, thanks for your time!

  11. Don — on 19th December, 2007 at 6:26 pm  

    Desi,

    ‘So it is possible that what gets culled under “honor killings” might not actually be an honor killing?’

    That point was briefly raised in the other thread, in relation to Brazil. The implication was that the potentially expensive option of divorce could be avoided by hiring a hit-man and then, if caught, saying ‘I thought she was unfaithful.’ To which the law responded, ‘Fair enough, off you go.’

    But the central concept, that the patriarch ‘owns’ his family and may dispose of them as he sees fit remains.

  12. Desi Italiana — on 19th December, 2007 at 6:38 pm  

    Don,

    “That point was briefly raised in the other thread, in relation to Brazil. The implication was that the potentially expensive option of divorce could be avoided by hiring a hit-man and then, if caught, saying ‘I thought she was unfaithful.’ To which the law responded, ‘Fair enough, off you go.’”

    Yeah, using the excuse of honor killings in places where it’s ok has been done before as well. Lots of stories in Sicily about this one (before it was outlawed). I’m sure if we looked around elsewhere, we’d find that too.

  13. HRCP — on 20th December, 2007 at 4:49 am  

    one slight confusion..on my end this time! in a flurry of writing out a few things here and there I made an error above. The report is from Jan 2005 – DECEMBER 2006 and not Jan 2006. Please make the necessary changes in my comment above so that it is not misleading.

  14. HRCP — on 20th December, 2007 at 5:08 am  

    In relation to the honour killing query ‘So it is possible that what gets culled under “honor killings” might not actually be an honor killing?’.

    Our criteria for putting a certain case into the honour killings code is very simple. A crime that has been said to be done as an honour killing, whether by the perpetrator or other, is filed as such. Many a times the chances are just that the murder was committed to solve another issue or to obtain some monetary or other gains. But our collection method lets us know how widespread the extent is of honour killings and/or its use as a cover over other crimes. This obviously points out to a much more frightful point – that people find that honour killing is a “safer” crime to commit then, say, just murder!!!
    loopholes or a completely faulty legal system?

    Secondly, we have a second code “karo-kari” that eventually comes under the umbrella of “honour killings”. Karo-Kari murders are specifically those that have been committed against someone on suspicion of adultery, cheating, or any other form of sexual behaviour deemed “deviant” by society. This of course is also a widely used/abused practice. It was originally found in traditional/tribal practices (the terms specifically coming from Sindh; differnt terms exist for different localities) and are now more common. They are widely used to settle tribal scores.

    Oh well, enough lecturing for right now! I really have to get to work..lots of deadlines to catch before Eid tomorrow! Eid Mubarak, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you!

  15. Desi Italiana — on 20th December, 2007 at 5:50 pm  

    HRCP,

    Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions; your responses have given me much to think about.

    I’ve also asked the editor to edit your response as you’ve requested.

    Eid Mubarak to you too!

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Pickled Politics © Copyright 2005 - 2010. All rights reserved. Terms and conditions.
With the help of PHP and Wordpress.