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The horror of being a woman in Pakistan

January 02, 2013 16:20 IST

The Delhi gangrape case has highlighted how vulnerable women remain in India.

But the situation in neighbouring Pakistan is worse, as most cases of sexual assault in that country are hushed up due to the stigma attached to the victims of such crimes.

South Punjab in Pakistan has recorded the most cases of atrocities against women. According to AWAZ Foundation, a local NGO, 3,100 such cases were registered during 2012 across 15 districts and 53 tehsils.

"These 15 districts have the highest reported incidents of crime against women," stated the NGO.

This year has recorded the highest number of such incidents. In 2009, there were 1,621 recorded cases of atrocities against women, in 2010 there were 2,744 cases and in 2011 2,797 cases.

According to the AWAZ Foundation, violence against women in the region had worsened because of a combination of various factors including the feudal system, weak law implementation and lack of awareness in a male-dominated society.

Apart from rape, several forms of violence against women are rampant in Pakistan:

Honour Killings: These are acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members who are perceived to have brought 'dishonour' to the family.

Kala-kali: This term usually indicates a 'disreputable man' or a 'disreputable woman', who have committed the 'crime' of bringing disgrace to his/her family or clan. The crime, including having an illicit relationship, can be 'punished' with murder.

Vanni: Child marriage is still prevalent in tribal areas of Pakistan. Young girls are forcibly married to members of opposing clans in order to resolve family feuds or compensate for a crime.

Vanni can only be avoided if the girl's clan agrees to pay blood money, called Diyat. Otherwise the young bride is forced to spend her life paying for a crime committed by her male relatives.

Death by burning: The horrific custom -- of killing a woman by setting her ablaze and then claiming that it was a case of suicide – is a blot on both Indian and Pakistani democracies.

Acid Attack: This is another practice that should make both India and Pakistan hang their heads in shame. Acid is often flung on the face of a woman, disfiguring her permanently,  by a jilted suitor or an angry husband.

Selling women: Selling off women -- by her impoverished family members -- is a common practice in Pakistan.

Domestic violence: It is estimated that between 70 and 90 per cent of women in Pakistan have suffered some form of abuse. An estimated 5,000 women are killed per year due to domestic violence; thousands of others are maimed or disabled.

Tahir Ali In Islamabad