In South Asia, including Afghanistan, women have suffered for centuries from the punishments meted out to them by their communities and male relatives. In spite of the impressive gains women have made in participating in public life and occupying public space in Pakistan, incidents of brutality and discrimination against women surface from time to time. Many of these incidents have their roots in practices flowing from the decisions made by the tribal and feudal jirga systems. The judgments and verdicts of these jirgas, which are parallel justice systems operating outside the civil and criminal courts, were honoured even by the British who prided themselves on their sense of social justice, and have not been stamped out either by democrats or dictators. In some parts of the country, panchayats serve the same purpose as jirgas.
Traditionally, jirgas have been considered convenient instruments of resolving inter-tribal and inter-community disputes, evolving a consensus on issues of political importance and helping governments to enforce their writ to whatever extent. We have seen how jigas have been mobilised during the Afghan conflict. Continue reading
It was a great day for Aurat Foundation. Not only because 8 March was International Women’s Day but also because the Sindh Assembly unanimously passed long-awaited legislation against domestic violence. In its dying days, the Assembly adopted the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill 2013. This much needed legislation, defines domestic violence as:
- Gender related, physical, emotional, verbal, psychological abuse
- Pattern of degrading or humiliating conduct
- Insult, ridicule, threat to cause physical pain, malicious prosecution and threat of violence
- Obsessive possessiveness or jealousy undermining the privacy, liberty, integrity and security of the victim
- Baseless accusations
- Citing barrenness of a spouse for the purpose of marrying again
- Willful or negligent abandonment of the aggrieved person Continue reading
Pakistan’s laws are capable of punishing criminals. Yet, outrageously, innocents are punished and criminals walk free. Acid throwing, or vitriolage – which works almost exclusively against women and is generally committed by jealous lovers, close family members or enraged husbands – is a seriously horrific crime and its victims are scattered all over Pakistan and other parts of South Asia. In the Pakistani context, an older post on this site by barrister Afzal Jafri is available here.
Fakhra Younus was a victim of acid violence. Prior to her tragic suicide on 17 March 2012 – Fakhra jumped off the 6th floor of a building in Rome – she left a message that she was taking her own life because her victimizer could not be brought to justice. Continue reading
Acid violence is a reprehensible crime and it is prevalent all over South Asia. It involves criminals committing violence – overwhelmingly against women – by throwing acidic substances at victims. This not only causes disfiguration of victims’ faces, but also causes lasting psychological problems.
Generally, offenders deliberately commit such crimes after careful planning – the free availability of acid makes the crime easy enough to commit. Although this crime can be directed against everyone (women, children and men), it is most frequently directed against women. The effects of acid violence are tragic and include disfigurement of the face, loss of eyes and limbs, damage to organs, and subsequent infections – victims and their families also suffer psychological damage over and above such physical injuries. In addition to mental trauma, survivors also face social segregation and exclusion which further injures their confidence and acutely undermines their public and private lives in a permanent manner. It is, therefore, unfortunate that in Pakistan – until now – there was no express legislative measure which selectively combatted the menace of acid violence. Continue reading