By: Farishta Khattak
Domestic violence occurs between people in an intimate relationship. It can take many forms, including emotional, verbal, sexual, and physical abuse, as well as threats of abuse. Abusive relationships always involve an imbalance of power and control. An abuser uses intimidating, hurtful words and behaviors to control their partner. It might not be easy to identify domestic violence at first, as even though some relationships are clearly abusive from the outset, abuse often starts subtly and gets worse over time.
You might be experiencing domestic violence if you are in a relationship with someone who insults you, tries to control how you spend money, where you go, what medication you take, threatens you with violence, or blames you for their abusive behavior. If anything of this sort is happening to you, you are being subjected to domestic violence and should leave your abusive partner, or at least start planning how to do so. An abuser will continue abusing you if you stay silent every time they hit you, abuse you, or torture you.
Domestic abuse is happening everywhere around the world, whether it is Pakistan, India, the United States, Ethiopia, or any other country. It is not limited to a specific geographic context, and whether we talk about it or not, we cannot deny the fact that it is happening and many women are suffering from it. Furthermore, they will keep suffering if we continue ignoring it and refuse to acknowledge that it is a real issue.
Pakistan is a developing country is where there is still much work to be done to achieve gender equality. According to a study carried out in 2009 by “Human Rights Watch”, an estimated 5000 women are killed per year from domestic physical violence, with thousands of others left disabled. Many girls get married at a very young age where they have no idea what is happening to them, making them vulnerable and more prone to violence. Often, they cannot take a stand for themselves as they are financially and emotionally dependent on their husbands, making them think that they will not be able to survive without their partners. These thoughts can be traced to socio-cultural norms in Pakistan, which are mostly patriarchal, highlighting that work needs to be done to remove this dependence of women over men.
Most of these young girls are from undeveloped areas in Sindh according to UNICEF and oftentimes when they get married their parents relinquish all responsibility to their husbands, leaving them with no other choice but to stay in abusive relationships where they are regularly subjected to physical abuse. The violence that these women face all their lives leads to great trauma and leaves a huge hole in their life. This trauma costs them their mental and physical health, and sometimes, even their lives. Domestic violence does not only affect the women that are the direct targets of abuse, but also the children who live in the same household and witness the abuse.