Gender-based violence (GBV) is a major public health and human rights issue across the globe. It is prevalent in rich and poor countries, in rural and urban areas, and in situations of conflict and in peace. Whenever there is debate on GBV, the discussion is more about highlighting violence against women as they are the most vulnerable segment of every society.
According to an article by Talal Raza (Lahore), each year over 1.6 million people worldwide lose their lives to violence. Violence is among the leading causes of death for people aged 15-44 years worldwide, accounting for 14% of deaths among males and 7% of deaths among females. For every person who dies as a result of violence, many more are injured and suffer from a range of physical, sexual, reproductive and mental health problems. Moreover, violence places a massive burden on national economies, costing countries billions of US dollars each year in health care, law enforcement and lost productivity.
Gender based violence is not only observable in third world countries like Pakistan but also in developed countries like USA. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, in US, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year. Also in 2005, 1181 women were killed by their intimate partners in US. Gender based violence in many of the developing countries might be seen as cultural practice, normal part of life or a private and personal matter due to which it goes unreported as it happens behind the closed doors.
According to Global Gender Gap Index 2017, the World Economic Forum placed Pakistan as the second worst country on gender equality. According to UN Demographic and Health Surveys 2012-2013 report which takes into account variables such as wealth, location and ethnicity, the report reveals that 12 per cent of women in Pakistan (4.9 million) aged 18-49 are simultaneously deprived in four Sustainable Development Goals-related dimensions: 1. Child marriages, 2. Education, 3. Healthcare, and 4. Employment. The statistics of GBV and violence against women in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are alarming. According to the statistics provided by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), a total of 4398 cases of honor killing were reported from different parts of Pakistan from January 2011 to January 2017. Of these, 390 cases were reported from different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with Peshawar on top – 71 cases – and Mardan second with 55 cases. 345 of those killed in the name of honor were women whereas 45 men.
As for cases of violence against women, the Aurat Foundation’s annual report on women rights in 2016 says that 7852 cases were reported last year. The report said that 287 cases of violence against women were reported from KP in the first nine months of 2016, with the highest number of cases taking place in Peshawar (102). The top three crimes against women, according to the report, were kidnapping, rape and murder.
According to a study conducted by Khyber Medical College, deaths due to domestic violence in KPK province of Pakistan accounted for an increasing, sizeable and avoidable number of deaths of young and adult females during the years 2009–11. Violence against women is on rise in KP due to lack of awareness and education, practicing harsh social practices, cultural values and norms, lack of support structure for GBV survivors at community level. And due to lack of seriousness from institutions to support GBV survivors by providing free legal aid services, psychosocial support, shelter protection, security and economic empowerment opportunities.
Legislation and Strict implementation of laws for the protection of women are the only way forward to ensure relief and protection to the woman. The KP government needs to focus on creating new women protection laws and implementation on these laws especially KP Domestic Violence Bill, early child marriages and restraint act (amendment) which are pending since long. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Commission on the Status of Women (KPCSW) needs to play a proactive role in reviewing provincial laws, rules & regulations, amendments or new legislation to promote gender equality and eliminate discrimination against women. Similarly, the government need to review our education curriculum to make it gender friendly and gender should be taught at the school level.
It is time for our society to wake up now and open their ears and eyes to the realities of modern day and to give the women their due status they deserve. The government and all other relevant stakeholders should seriously look into this matter and work together.