• Maryam Salman

Pakistani Culture of Turning a Blind Eye to Domestic Abuse -Maryam Salman

Domestic Abuse! Seen all over yet remorselessly ignored in our society and is often dismissed as “their personal matter”. According to a report by Dawn, 90% of women in Pakistan have experienced some form of domestic violence, at the hands of their husbands or families and 47% of married women have experienced sexual abuse, particularly domestic rape. Let me clarify one thing, these figures represent only the reported cases and there are plenty that are still trapped behind the doors of silence.


It is an issue that is in dire need of public acknowledgement. Many people around our nation still find it as a matter of shame to publicly share their personal hardships and the mental and physical abuse they are going through. Victim shaming is the most common action carried out by the masses every day on almost every platform.


Our narrow-minded thinking instantly blames the women. She might not have been able to please her husband or she was not good enough for him. One may wonder, ‘Why didn’t she leave her husband?’ There is no one singular answer to this. She was unable to leave because she didn’t have the courage, was financially unable to move somewhere else, could not escape the tyrant because of societal pressure, was unable to afford an independent living, had to feed and clothe her children, had parental pressure, had the pressure of in-laws, her life was endangered if she left and the list goes on and on. Do we still need to ask that question? She was helpless.


A story by Dawn News vividly describes the way our society tackles the issue of domestic abuse. They would prefer their daughter to die than to return home, divorced. People do not understand the pain a woman goes through. For them, their honour (which can be lost if their daughter is divorced) is the most important thing, even more important than the life of their daughter. A man that shamelessly beats up his pregnant wife is definitely unfit for a woman, but still the victim’s family refuses to keep their daughter and send her back to the abuser.


The main stance of many people around the nation is ‘Beta Allah se madad mango, sab theek ho jayega’, {‘Ask Allah for help, everything will be alright’}. Islam is a religion that strongly discourages its followers to obtain a violent path regarding all aspects of life. How can we provide an abuser with the shelter of Islam? No doubt that Allah can change hearts but we cannot ask a girl to stay in an abusive relationship on the mere hope that everything, sooner or later, will be alright. Taking the shelter of Islam to defend any abuser is the most ridiculous thing that can ever be witnessed.


However, to end this culture, many strong women emerged and decided to address these issues instead of turning a blind eye like the rest, and paved the way and motivated others to speak up for themselves for not only their welfare but for the welfare of our future generations. NGOs have emerged willing to help the ones who have been victims of the toxic patriarchy of our society. The thing that people around the nation need to understand is that nothing around you can change you until you change yourself. We need to change our mindset and give space to the victims so that they could effectively handle their trauma in a way that suits them the best.


One of these foundations is the ‘Kashf Foundation’ which aims to liberate women from the shackles of poverty and abuse. They have schemes to give interest-free loans to women so that they could establish their own businesses and could be financially independent. One of the clients of Kashf Foundation said “Kashf taught me the most valuable lesson; you have to fight to change your life, and, being a Pakistani woman, the struggle is harder. Kashf believes in that inherent power which a woman possesses. I am certainly a woman who controls her own life, runs her own household, and makes her own decisions.”


To end this appalling culture, we need to look around and offer our assistance to the ones who are at high risk of being a victim. Secondly, we need to spread awareness among the people including the minors because that is the core age of shaping a mind and further shaping a whole generation. Children need to be taught the difference between right and wrong and they must not be encouraged to walk with the herd. They must be taught to follow their own values. Children mirror the behaviour they observe in adults. Their mindset can only be shaped in a better way if parents stop abusing each other in front of them or let go of their anger for the sake of their children. This is something that parents need to learn as well for the well being of their family and to keep it intact. A good way of doing so is to attend seminars and refer to psychologists to get an idea on how domestic abuse not only affects the person who is suffering through it, but also those around them who witness the abuse. Change must start with you. If you take a step in the right direction, others will follow.


Another act that needs to be done is the proper implementation of law and order. The constitution of Pakistan has laws regarding abuses of all sorts, but we need to ensure that these laws are implemented and justice is served.


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