Gender-Based Violence in Balochistan

The framework of law in Pakistan has granted women their fundamental rights, which are protected by the constitution of the country against any violation. However, despite these legal provisions, women are still facing challenges in exercising their rights. According to data provided by the Women Development Department (WDD) of Balochistan, the recorded incidents of violence against women in Quetta from January 2022 to November 2022 amount to a total of 59 incidents. In the province of Balochistan, women experience heightened levels of adversity due to the prevalence of patriarchal and tribal values, resulting in the normalization of domestic violence. In the orthodox culture of Balochistan, women are confined to household work rather than the mental and physical tasks of outdoor activities. Women who express an intense interest in pursuing education or engaging in curriculum-related activities are undoubtedly subjected to acts of violence, and regrettably, the instances are increasing in the province at large.  This opinion article aims to address the intricate relationship between gender discrimination, domestic violence, low literacy rates, and cultural barriers that women experience in Balochistan.

The Aurat Foundation, an Islamabad based NGO, issued annual figures related to women facing violence in Pakistan. In 2022, it reported 66 women from Balochistan were murdered. There were 95 occurrences of violence against women in 2022, up from 78 in 2021. Also, in 2021, 19 women died under honor-related circumstances; in 2022, the figure went up to 28. Also, three domestically abused women committed suicide in 2022. When a woman was asked to describe her domestic violence experience, she hesitated to disclose the instances owing to concerns for her family and their dignity. 

Khadija Bibi, a mother of three in Nasirabad, Balochistan, bravely confronts the sun to make chapatis outside a relief organization’s tent. In 2022, flooding damaged her village, Sultan Kot. The incident also ruined her husband’s business who is mentally disturbed after being unemployed and vents his anger to her. She narrates that arguing later, resorted to physical violence, which has sadly become a routine. “Expressing my concerns to others may cause more conflict”, she stated. This was her reply when asked for a report by the police against this violence. 

This approach shows that women in Balochistan need more literacy support, and cultural barriers should be eradicated to make the women empowered inside the province. Due to the low literacy rate, women in Balochistan may not know their basic rights, which are granted to them constitutionally. A survey found 26.6% literacy in Balochistan. The poll found that males are 36.5% literate, followed by females, i.e., only 15%. In rural communities, the female literacy is 2% compared to the provincial average of 26%, because their families don’t allow them to attend educational institutes. This ratio indicates the unequal treatment in the province towards women and further adds misery to the already worsen situation in the province. 

On October 2, 2022, a case was reported in Quetta near Shah Zaman Road. Amena Bibi, a student of BS Education at Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University, was killed by her husband Shahab Khosa. According to accounts, her husband shot her in the head with a 9-mm handgun when she was offering prayer. Furthermore, the couple reportedly disagreed about the victim’s wish to pursue study after marriage. Shahab Khosa had an alcohol and drug consumption habit, according to his family. The culprit allegedly mistreated Amena Bibi for a long time. The early report suggests that the couple were consistently fighting. The victim’s body was then taken to Quetta’s Civil Hospital, where the doctor found a right-side exit wound from a gunshot onto the head. The victim’s father complained at the police station. After the possible violent event, Shahab Khosa appeared to have escaped. This incident shows that gender-based violence in Balochistan is on the rise, and more has to be done to resolve it. 

Such incidents demonstrate the challenges faced by women in Balochistan as a result of social and cultural norms prevailing in society. If spouses work outside the home, they may worry about disobedience or infidelity from their partners. The act of permitting women to work outside the home in certain provincial societies has the potential to enhance their independence, present them with challenges, and influence their loyalty and respect towards their family. Due to financial constraints, certain women may find themselves unable to fully participate in society and make independent decisions. The widespread illiteracy potentially hinders empowering women economically in Balochistan. 

Also, early marriages are commonly observed in the province. This also indicates the male prowess in the province. In retrospect, improvement of women’s participation in life-changing decisions is necessary. Due to the tendency of parents to involve their daughters more in domestic work than their sons, will increase responsibilities placed on girls and will improve their sons, this will increase the responsibilities placed on girls and improve their ability to study and engage in extracurricular activities. This step will further improve women’s abilities in education and social conventions and will tend to transform the widespread perception of favoring sons over daughters. 

The question arises: how do we overcome violence against women? it is very important to understand that, as a part of the family being a husband and a guardian, the male counterparts must not exercise their authority of inappropriate touching without prior consent of their partners. No one has the right to touch you without ones’ permission, and they don’t have the right to stop women from exercising those rights that the Constitution of Pakistan has granted them. Furthermore, if someone has committed domestic violence against women, what will be their next step to overcome this? Facilities should be provided to the women of Balochistan, just like Punjab has provided to its female citizens.  The government of Punjab has established “violence against women centers,” in which they have provided facilities such as ambulances, police teams, medical staff, and shelter at one place. If a woman becomes the victim of domestic violence, she has to make a call to the center, and they will send an ambulance. The ambulance will take the victim to the center, where she can report her incident, followed by a medical checkup, and stay there as long as she wishes to. Most importantly, the staff working in these centers comprises of women that make the victims feel safe and comfortable.

After reporting the issue, judiciary role is crucial in deciding the fate of the victims. Furthermore, people in general and women in particular require specific courts where such issues are heard on a fast track to be resolved. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to spread this valuable information to women, ensuring their safety and security.  This can be achieved through its integration into the curriculum of schools, colleges, universities, and other esteemed learning institutions. Additionally, the widespread circulation of this knowledge on various social media platforms will serve as a means to empower women with the necessary understanding and guidance to navigate such challenging circumstances.

Awareness about such issues and the rights of women is significant in this regard. By implementing policy-oriented solutions can effectively address the ongoing problem of violence against women in Balochistan. Failure to do so will perpetuate the existing challenges within this province. It is imperative that we confront these issues head-on in order to steer the province towards progress and development.

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