Keeping in mind the social, cultural, and economic barriers, eliminating violence against women in Pakistan seems like a challenging task that requires a multifaceted approach. Despite the passing of many acts and laws to eliminate violence against women, they have been encountering many issues due to patriarchy. Under these circumstances, the following strategies can help eliminate violence against women to a greater extent.
Reforming dysfunctional criminal justice system:
There are three components of the criminal justice system: police, court, and prison. When a crime takes place, it is the police that investigate the case by appointing an investigation officer. After the investigation is completed, the case is moved to court for a decision based on the evidence collected by the police. When the court announces its verdict against the culprit, he is sent to prison. In Pakistan, the entire criminal justice system is dysfunctional and does not work, particularly when a case related to women is considered. First, police are reluctant to register an FIR when a female comes to the police station to report the violence she has been suffering. The police prefer to ignore the case. If the FIR is registered, the male investigation officer is not often trained to deal with gender-sensitive issues and often mistreats women. Second, the court system in Pakistan is very time-consuming and increases the financial burden on the victim. There is no provision to deal with women’s cases separately and swiftly. Thus, women cannot rely on the criminal justice system to eliminate violence against them through legal proceedings.
Under these situations, wider reforms are required in the criminal justice system of Pakistan. First, a separate police station with women officers must be established to deal with the cases of women. Second, the investigation officer must be trained to deal with gender-sensitive issues. Third, a shelter, medicine, and food should be given to those women who are victims of violence within the premises of a police station. Fourth, the victim needs to be given police protection unless the issue is solved. Final, a separate bench of judges should be formed to deal with the cases related to women, and they must give their verdicts rapidly without wasting more time.
Addressing cultural and religious constraints:
Some Pakistani norms and cultures that directly contribute to violence against women need to be changed. Firstly, Pakistan is a patriarchal society where women are assigned a subordinate role and are not considered equal to men. Consequently, they are treated as subjects and usually become victims of violence by them. This entire concept of patriarchy must be altered, giving women equal rights with men. Secondly, women, particularly those belonging to the rural regions, are not given full autonomy or freedom in Pakistani culture. Society prefers that they suffer domestic violence silently and not involve the police because they have children with their spouses. This family impediment must be removed to make women free to fight for their rights. Thirdly, some of the religious and cultural practises must be eliminated, like forced marriages, dowry-related issues, and honour killings, where women are particularly targeted. In Pakistani culture, women are considered the bearers of honour and are often the victims of violence in the name of honour.
Finally, some misconceptions about Islam regarding women must be addressed, like the fact that a woman’s position in Islam is within the household and she must not go outside without a male guardian. Besides, in many cases, she is not allowed to get higher education or seek employment. She is forced to cover herself from head to toe. Moreover, she is not allowed to adopt family planning and is pushed to give more births, even at the risk of her health. Women are compelled to follow these rules by citing the teachings of Islam. However, Islam guarantees women’s rights. It prohibits the killing of girls, grants women a right to divorce, ensures they receive inheritance from family, permits them to gain education, and gives them a right to freedom of earning. Practices such as wearing burqas, the isolation of women in their homes, banning girls’ education, and having a male custodian are all tribal traditions that have no basis in Islam. Problems take place when people start to link their culture and traditions to Islam.
Amending criminal defamation law:
Although it is the right step taken by the government to punish those who defame others without any proof, criminal defamation law in Pakistan is used as a tool to suppress or silence the voices of women who suffer harassment or violence at the hands of men. Under the Pakistan Penal Code, any person who makes a statement knowing or having reason to believe that it would “harm the reputation” of a person is guilty of an offence subject to imprisonment of up to five years. The law was used to suppress the voices of women who broke their silence on the issue of sexual harassment, encouraged by the global movement #MeToo. Afterwards, a wave of defamation proceedings against women was initiated to suppress them. The problem with this law is that it will restrain women from raising their voices against harassment and mistreatment. It must be amended to make it more women-oriented so that they can raise their voices against the violence without any fear.
Creating awareness and educating women about their rights:
Many women, particularly those belonging to the rural regions, do not know about their rights guaranteed by the Pakistani constitution. Many acts and bills have been passed by the federal and provincial governments to ensure women’s rights. Notable among them are the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2010, to increase women’s presence in employment, the Prevention of Anti-Women Practises Act 2011 to bar force marriages, marriages to the Quran, and giving away women in compensation, the Acid Control and Acid Crimes Prevention Act 2011, to counter the acid attacks on women by making the offence punishable with imprisonment for a minimum of 14 years and a fine of Rs 1 million, the Sindh Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2013, to protect women from domestic violence, Due to their impoverished educational backgrounds, many women are unaware of their rights and the power and authority guaranteed by the state for their protection. As a result, they suffer violence and inequality silently and do not use these acts and laws to get their assailants punished. Thus, they must be educated about their rights.
Encouraging women’s economic empowerment:
Encouraging women’s economic empowerment acts as a great strategy to eliminate violence against women in many ways. Ensuring women’s economic empowerment means giving them equal opportunities in economic activities like jobs and business. It will make women financially independent. Besides, it will elevate the honour, respect, and position of women in society. It will increase women’s access to health and education. All these benefits will change the attitude of men towards women and promote greater gender equality.
Foster partnerships among government, civil society and private sector:
A greater partnership among the government, civil society, and the private sector can prove to be an effective way to eliminate violence against women in Pakistan. The government can play a part in developing policies, laws, and programs to address violence against women. It can also allocate adequate funds for awareness campaigns and programs. The government can establish special courts to expedite cases related to violence against women. Civil society organisations, including non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and women’s groups, can provide a range of services to victims of violence, including legal assistance and counselling. They can also raise awareness about violence against women through campaigns, rallies, and other public events. Civil society organisations can also work with the government to monitor the implementation of policies and programs aimed at addressing violence against women. The private sector can support efforts to eliminate violence against women by adopting policies and practices that promote gender equality in the workplace. They can also provide financial resources to support initiatives aimed at reducing violence against women.
Thus, the above-mentioned are some of the strategies to eliminate violence against women in Pakistan. these must be carried out to solve the major issue of women in Pakistani society.