Violence can be defined as:
• The expression of physical or verbal force against self or other, compelling
action against one's will on pain of being hurt.
• An aggressive behavior where the actor or perpetrator uses his or her own body
as an object (including a weapon) to inflict (relatively serious) injury or
discomfort upon an individual.
• The act of hurting self or others physically or psychologically through verbal
or physical abuse resulting in the injury, death or psychological pressure on
the individual affected y it.
The World Health Organization (WHO) promotes a broader definition of violence:
The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against
oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in
or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, or
Violence is not a phenomenon specific to any one part of the world. This
practice is prevalent across the globe and continues to persist as one of the
most heinous, systematic and prevalent human rights abuses in the world. Each
year, over 1.6 million people worldwide lose their lives to violence. Violence
is among the leading causes of death for people aged 15-44 years worldwide,
accounting for 14% of deaths among males and 7% of deaths among females. For
every person who dies as a result of violence, many more are injured and suffer
from a range of physical, sexual, reproductive and mental health problems.
Moreover, violence places a massive burden on national economies, costing
countries billions of US dollars each year in health care, law enforcement and
Violence has many shapes, forms and its consequences in every society. It may in
some society in the form of customary practices or it may be an outcome of
unnecessary pressures on individuals of the society e.g. in the Indian
sub-continent many people (mostly women) had been and still being victimized by
violent cultural practices like sati in India, Wanni,marriage with Quran and
honor killings etc in Pakistan. On the other hand , suicide attacks is one of
the most latest forms of violence we can observe which according to critics can
be an outcome of social injustice and negligence one faces during some years of
As we are concerned with Gender issues, our glance will be more focused on forms
and consequences of gender based violence.
Gender based Violence (GBV)
Gender-based violence can be defined as:
“Violence involving men and women, in which the female is usually the victim and
which arises from unequal power relationships between men and women”.
According to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women (CEDAW):
The term gender-based violence (GBV) is used to distinguish violence that
targets individuals or groups of individuals on the basis of their gender from
other forms of violence. It includes any act which results in, or is likely to
result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm. GBV includes violent acts
such as rape, torture, mutilation, sexual slavery, forced impregnation and
murder. It also defines threats of these acts as a form of violence.
Gender-based violence (GBV) is a major public health and human rights problem
throughout the world. It is prevalent in rich and poor countries, in rural and
urban areas, in situations of conflict and in peace, and in the aftermath of
Whenever around the globe we are talking about gender based violence, usually
the discussion is based more on highlighting violence against women as it is
believed that worst forms of violence by men against women can be noted in every
society. According to statistical data from UN, nearly 5000 women are killed in
the world every year only in the name of ‘honor’. Globally, at least one in
three women and girls face some kind of violence in her lifetime. World Health
Organization’s World Report on Violence and Health notes that "one of the most
common forms of violence against women is that performed by a husband or male
Gender based violence is not only observable in third world countries like
Pakistan but also in developed countries like USA. According to the National
Center for Injury Prevention and Control, in US, women experience about 4.8
million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year. Also in
2005, 1181 women were killed by their intimate partners in US.
Gender based Violence in many of the developing countries might not be seen as
violence rather as a cultural practice and normal part of their life. Usually
the violent behavior of males specially husbands towards their female members
especially wives goes unreported as it is done behind closed doors and we may
find females never complaining of it.
Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Pakistan
Pakistan is not a country who has not seen gender based violence on the land.
Thousands of individuals particularly women have been victimized by gender based
violence. In the patriarchal society of Pakistan, women who make up 56% of the
total population bear the brunt of poor governance, social and economic systems
and feudalism. They face many forms of violence like rape, gang rape, forced
marriages, acid throwing, stove burning, customary practices of Karo Kari and
Wanni, domestic violence, sexual harassment at workplace, honor killings etc but
has remained to be of no importance for judiciary of Pakistan, particularly the
lower judiciary where even cases demanding immediate justice for the victim
remain pending for months and years and even some people withdraw cases in the
mean time because of the threats they receive from the opponent accused party.
This thing, instead of uprooting violence from the society, has given oxygen to
elements who keep on assaulting women. According to an estimate, during the last
ten years, 73913 cases of violence against women had been reported. In 2008,
according Dawn newspapaer, 7773 cases of violence against women were reported.
Only in the early six months of year 2009, the cases that were reported went
Forms of Gender Based Violence in Pakistan:
Following is the gender based form of violence, we can observe in Pakistan:
• Acid throwing
• Forced Marriages
• Rape/ Gang Rape
• Abduction or kidnapping
• Domestic torture (by in laws and relatives)
• Custodial Violence
• Sexual Harassment
Murder can be defined in legal terms as “an act of killing persons unlawfully
with intention”. Murder is regarded as one of the harshest forms of violence and
also exists in big significant numbers. According to Federal Bureau of
Statistics, Government of Pakistan, during the year, 1998-2007, 96708 cases of
murder were reported whereas 123396 cases of attempted murder were reported.
According to another statistical data, people are murdered at the rate of almost
12000 per total population each year in Pakistan. . Like many countries, the
constitution of Pakistan suggests from life imprisonment to death penalty for
the accused found guilty but the culprits often seem to remain at large if they
have links with the influential people.
In Pakistan, people are murdered for many reasons, like in revenge by opponent
parties, for political reasons, over tribal and domestic disputes. There is
another horrific root cause of murder which has consumed the lives of many
people. That is murder in the name of ‘honor’.
In this form of brutal murder, women are mostly the victims. In all the four
provinces, honor killings have different names like Kalakali in Punjab, Karokari
in Sindh, Siyakaari in Baluchistan and taurtoora in NWFP. According to United
Nations Population Fund (UNFP) in Pakistan, every year, 1000 women are killed
only in the name of honor. For many people specially in rural and backward
areas, it is a violence which may not be violence rather an act by ‘men’ to
protect the honor of their family which according to their perceptions, give
them full liberty to kill their wives if they doubt they have illicit relations
with someone else and also kill their daughters and sisters who marry someone
after their own heart and going against their family’s consent so that they
could teach them and other female members a ‘lesson’. Also in such forms of
violence, men are also victimized to some extent but the ratio of women is
greater than that of men.
The practices of honor killings are more common in rural areas because most of
such practices take place with consent of the landlords who have close ties with
law enforcement agencies and the alleged are often at large. The National
Assembly of Pakistan passed a law for controlling this practice in 2004 however
the statistics show such practices are still carried out.
In Pakistan, according to statistics from Human Rights and Legal Committee of
Supreme court Bar Association, during period from 1998 to 2008, 7480 cases of
this practice were reported. The Federal Minister of Interior to Senate in July,
2004 presented figures according to which from 1998-2003, 3451 women and 2774
men fell a victim to such heinous practice. In 2008, according to News reports,
472 cases of honor killings were reported out of which 200 were reported only in
Sindh. In early six months of 2009, 293 cases of honor killings were reported
throughout the country.
Some Press News:
Following are some of the reports taken from various newspapers that reports
killings in the name of honor.
• In 2008, five incidents were reported in which sons killed their mothers in
the pretext of moral corruption.
• On March 7, 2008, a 17 year old married girl Tasleem Solangi, accused without
any proof of immorality, was thrown in front of the hungry dogs and then shot
dead after being declared Kari by Jirga in Khairpur district of Sindh. Some
reports claim that she was eight month pregnant. Reports also claim that this
incident took place with the consent of District Nazim.
• In news, in Ahmed Bhangwar village, in Sindh, Samia 17 and Nadeem 18 were shot
dead by Samia’s uncle Bhangwar who got infuriated when he saw niece talking to
2. Acid Throwing
Acid throwing is another brutal form of violence that we can see in Pakistan .In
this, perpetrators of these attacks throw acid on the victim usually on their
faces which not only disfigures their face, burn tissues of their body but also
expose their bones and even dissolve them. The consequences of these attacks
include blindness and permanent scarring of the face and the body. Mostly the
women are victim of these attacks. According to an estimate, up to 400 women
fall victim to acid attacks perpetrated by their husbands or in-laws each year
Reports have shown some reasons behind such brutal incidents. Usually, acid
throwing attacks have been used as a form of revenge for refusal of sexual
advances, proposals of marriage and demands for dowry. Property disputes are
also one of the causes of such incidents.
Even though not all acid throwing cases are reported, an even lesser number of
acid burn victims are provided any justice. Belonging to poor or marginalized
fringes of the society, most acid survivors can hardly afford the cost of their
own healing and are thus fated to continue suffering, lest the handful of
relevant organizations succeed in reaching out to them. The victim is faced with
physical challenges, which require long term surgical treatment, as well as
psychological challenges, which require in-depth intervention from psychologists
and counsellors at each stage of physical recovery.
Depression and anxiety are common amongst all patients with large burn injuries;
however for victims with acid injuries, the physical scarring can lead to
feelings of shame and embarrassment, resulting in the survivor living a life in
hiding due to fear of prejudice and stigma from their peers and the community.
Recently, Chief justice directed the government to do legislation on the rising
incidents of acid throwing to control this situation. Various reports suggest
that under this legislation, the culprit could be sentenced from life
imprisonment to death along with heavy fine.
According to a survey, from May 2004 to May 2006, in 14 Districts of Punjab, 65
acid attacks were reported In 2008, 24 cases of acid throwing were reported. In
2009, 27 cases were reported only in the first six months with 21 of them
occurring only in Punjab.
Some Press News:
• In May 2008, two women in Lahore received severe burn injuries when they were
attacked with acid. Samar Noman and Naghmana Bibi were standing outside a
school, where Samar was picking up her child, when Amir rode by an accompliance
on a motorbike and threw acid on them. Amir’s proposal to marry Samar had been
rejected by her parents. (Source: HRCP Annual Report).
• According to another report, Sajjad Ahmed, Khuda Baksh and Ahmed alias Doda
threw acid on Rabia and her mother Pathani. Both sustained serious burns while
Rabia lost her two eyes as well. (Source: Dawn).
• Nasira Bibi of Khairpur District received acid injuries. Her husband and his
brother cut off her nose and threw acid on her face over domestic quarrel.
(Source: Daily Times).
3. Forced Marriages
In Pakistan, many young girls/women are forced into wed-lock against their
consent. Although, the Islamic laws give full liberty to women to marry after
her own heart but this fact remains to be quite far from people who are only
Muslims by name. In urban areas of Pakistan, marriages take place with girls’
consent but it is in the backward areas where the problem lies. Despite the
aforementioned Act, the tradition is still practiced in some areas through Vanni
and Watta Satta. .
Watta satta is a tribal custom in Pakistan of exchanging brides between two
families. At the time of marriage, both families trade brides. That is, both
families must have a daughter and a son and be willing to betroth them to a
daughter and son of the other family. For example, in order for one to marry off
his son, he must also have a daughter to marry off in return to the same family.
Watta Satta is a practice more common in rural areas than in Urban areas of
Pakistan. In a survey carried out in 2004, in 178 villages of Punjab and Sindh,
almost 92% marriages took place as a result of this practice. In some of the
cases, the pair for marriage was of uncle and neice and the girl was of very
Majority of people regard Watta Satta as custom but it becomes violence against
women when they are married off at the age although they should be imparted
education. The constitution of Pakistan explains this by saying that no boy
under 18 or a girl under 16 should be married.
Vanni is an indigenous means of alternative dispute resolution mechanism in
which disputes (often resulting from murders) are resolved by the traditional
peace keeping institutions without having to invest time and money in lengthy
judicial processes. The price of this dispute settlement is paid in the form of
women/girls from the family of the aggressor who enter the house of the bereaved
family by way of unceremonious wedlock, to remind the aggressors of the
injustice their men bestowed upon the bereaved family. The Vanni could be
avoided if the clan of the girl agrees to pay money, called Deet. Otherwise the
young bride may spend her life paying for the crime of her male relatives.
It is a practice carried out in rural areas where Jirga system is quite strong.
In such practices, news reports have shown the children given in marriage to old
According to report by Human Rights and Legal Committee by Supreme Court Bar
Association, Pakistan, 945 cases of Vanni were reported during the year
1999-2009. According to various news resources in 2008, 56 cases of Vanni were
reported. However, no significant figures for 2009 have been made in the press
releases. But, according to Dawn Newspaper, 6 cases of Vanni were reported in
Punjab during period January to May.
In 2006, Vanni and Watta was regarded as crime in a bill passed by National
Assembly which has provided the legal protection to women but the figures show
more need to be done to ensure the protection in ground reality.
Some Press News:
These practices are carried out in rural areas so not many news reports reach to
media. Some of them taken from news are:
• A five year girl was married in Mardan as Swara/ wanni and the local police
was unable to register a case against the accused( Source: Daily times, April
• Parents of three women, Naheed, Khatoon Bibi and Aalim Khatoon, had given
their hands to boys of their rival group in compensation for a murder committed
in 1964 whose hearing was done in front of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad
Chaudhary in 2006. ( Dawn September 22, 2006)
4. Rape/Gang Rape:
Fourth form of violence is rape that we see in Islamic State of Pakistan. Often,
young girls and women are victims of gender-based rape in our society. Talking
about rape cases against women, often, jirgas and panchayits had been found
giving verdicts where people of victim’s party were ordered to rape the female
members of accused. Also, in many other cases it has been found that women are
raped in revenge for seeking divorce, refusing marriage proposals, marrying of
their own choice, defying cultural norms and for many other efforts at
independent decision making. We can also call rape an advanced stage of sexual
harassment. In some cases, it is found that fake aalims and pirs were accused of
rape that fooled people of getting away with evil spirits.
In some of rape cases, a gang or group of people is involved as perpetrator and
a single individual is the victim. Also the victim is murdered in some rape
According to reports from news papers, during the period 2007-2009, 7,546 cases
of rape were reported giving an average of 314 rape cases per month. Only in the
year 2009, 2497 rape cases were reported out of which 1959 in Punjab, 221 in
Sindh, 118 in NWFP, 27 in Baluchistan, 56 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, 106 in ICT,
10 in Northern Areas.
Some Press News:
• A young girl (20) was deprived of her one leg during an operation in Mayo
Hospital to save her life after she got brutally wounded while thwarting a rape
attempt.( April 13, 2009. Source: The Nation)
• In another case, an MPA and advisor to Chief Minister Punjab was accused of
raping a woman in Lahore on June 1, 2009. (June 3, 2009. Source: The Nation).
• Lubano, a resident of district Ubaro, was raped by two men, Abdul Sattar and
Mohammed Anwer Hussain, on January 27, 2007. Later on, she was taken to a
courtyard where nine other people abused her and physically humiliated her.(May
16,2009. Source: The News).
5. Abduction or Kidnapping:
Kidnapping means “to take away a person against his will or consent by use of
force and fraud and keeping the person in false imprisonment without any legal
authority either for ransom or for other criminal activity”. The word abduction
is also same in meaning but in legal terms, abduction refers to women’s kidnap.
Talking in the context of gender based violence, usually males and most of times
young aged men are abducted or kidnapped for ransom, however in many other
cases, abduction is done for other criminal purposes like demanding government
or state authority to release the kidnapper’s companions being arrested in
various interrogations or at local level to force others to meet their demands
in return for the person being kidnapped. In cases of women, they are more
abducted for attempted rapes or even in revenge if the proposal for marriage is
With the rise of insurgency, the kidnapping has taken another reason which
demands people to follow their perspectives of life rather than allowing them to
live according to an individual’s own standards. Some reports suggest that men
and even women were kidnapped to teach them a lesson and to force them to lead
life according to Islam.
In Pakistan, this form of violence exists in significant numbers
According to Bureau of statistics, Government of Pakistan, 84,265 cases of
kidnapping for Ransom were reported during 1998-2007. According to Aurat
Foundation, 1762 cases of abduction of women were reported across the country in
2008 and from the figures of 2009; reports from media and NGOs suggest that only
in Punjab, 5624 women were kidnapped.
Some Press News:
• Taliban in Northern areas were involved in kidnapping school girls where they
were sent to mountains and forcibly married with talibs.(Source: Pakistan
• During Swat operation in IDP camps, girls were kidnapped by satans and sold to
brothels. (Pakistan Spectator).
• In Karachi, Ali Zafar, the singer was kidnapped on gunpoint by a person in his
own car along with his fiancee. Later he was released after paying ransom. (
6. Domestic torture (By in laws and Relatives)
Domestic torture and abuse is a widespread issue in Pakistan and victims include
women belonging to all sections of society. They are beaten, mutilated and even
burnt by their relatives often on quite petty issues. Often the women in houses
are less aware of their rights and that is why they do not think that this is
infact, violence against them or even if they can understand that they do not
have so much strength in their voices to raise them against the male chauvinist
According to Aurat Founation, 300 cases of torture were reported in 2008 while
in early six months 2009, 320 cases were reported in 2009
Some Press News:
• In January 2008, woman was killed by his husband on refusal to give him tea
(Source: HRCP Annual Report).
• In October 2008, a man shaved off his wife’s head on a household dispute and
sent her to her parents. (Source: Dawn)
• In June 2008, a 24 year old girl was burnt to death by her husband and in-laws
who sprinkled petrol on her and set her on fire.
In her report, a woman from Gujranwala was attacked by her in laws for marrying
after her own choice. Shabana’s nose was cut by her mother in law and four
brothers in law while her husband was not at home.
7. Custodial Violence:
Custodial violence has also proved one of the brutal forms of injustice. It has
not only affected the person accused but also his family. In many of the cases
police has subjected the accused under severe torture for two reasons: To force
the person to confess about the criminal act and to show efficiency in
investigation or to extort bribery.
Some reports suggest that the person is not genuinely guilty or supposed to be
guilty but to file a fake case against him subjected him to torture. Also, in
some reports it has been found that if the person accused in a crime could not
be arrested, police in support of influential people has arrested his relatives
and detained them for many several days so that the accused could hand over him
to police despite our law under which relatives of accused cannot be detained.
Women have also bore the brunt of custodial violence. There are cases that were
being raped under custody by police officials. But the sad fact is that 95% of
custodial violence reports against women go unreported.
According to the previous reports of Madadgaar Helpline Database, within nine
years from January 2000 to June 2008 there were 9364 cases of police torture.
Out of total 231 cases were reported in 2000, 555 in 2001, 996 in 2002, 838 in
2003, 1260 in 2004, 1356 in 2005, 1662 in 2006, 1723 in 2007 while 743 cases
were reported in 2008. According to report, 7425 males and 1250 females were the
victim of police torture during these nine years.
According to Daily Times, 695 cases of police torture were reported in early six
months of 2009 in which 278 males and 198 females were affected.
Some press News:
• In November 2008, according to annual report of HRCP, the Executive District
officer of Health Dr. Abdul Jalil Bachani Ministry (brother of provincial leader
of PPP) was abducted by dacoits in Hyderabad. The police chased the dacoits and
killed one in encounter. The police identified Haji Wakil among Dacoits. The
next night, police raided his home town and arrested eight children and four
women because of the immense pressure on provincial government to catch the
offenders. The women and children were detained for 16 days and were fed on only
one meal per day.
• In another case, a person Mubarik Ali was tortured in police custody for one
month. The victim lost his ability to see and was released after being proved
innocent ( Source: Aaj News).
• A woman , who was accused in a case was tortured raped by five police men in
custody (Source: HRCP Annual report)
8. Sexual Harassment:
Sexual harassment is defined as
“any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favours or other verbal or
written communication or physical conduct of a sexual nature or sexually
demeaning attitudes, causing interference with work performance or creating an
intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment or the attempt to punish the
complainant for refusal to comply to such a request or to make it a condition
In Pakistan, sexual harassment is on rise. All women who face harassment suffer
adverse effects, and according to some estimates, almost 80 to 90 percent of
women face some sort of harassment in public places, educational sectors and in
the workplace. Among the most common forms of harassment in Pakistan are the
discomforting gazes that follow a woman wherever she goes, as soon as she sets
foot outside her home.
The dynamics of harassment at the workplace take on special significance
considering the amount of time an adult spends at the workplace and the
spillover effects on career growth, worker productivity. Media reports suggest
that there has come up many issues regarding sexual harassment in various
working sectors but the authority could not take serious action against the
person accused because of lack of policies on sexual harassment.
The National Assembly did approve a bill against sexual harassment on August 4,
2009 which was to be ratified after approval from Senate in November but no
importance was given and had to be withdrawn automatically since it could not be
approved by Senate.
A Survey by AASHA
According to media reports in 2007, a survey was carried out by the Alliance
Against Sexual Harassment at Workplaces (AASHA), a group of NGOs which works to
root out harassment of women. AASHA interviewed nurses, domestic workers, women
employees of private and public organizations and salesgirls at plazas and
According to this survey, a staggering 78.38 % of working women had faced sexual
harassment at work, while 21 % chose not to talk about the topic.
The organization, said the incidence of emotional and physical stress, including
stress-related illnesses, were on the rise among such women.
Of the nurses interviewed, 58 % aged between 16 and 21 said they had faced
sexual harassment by co-workers, patients or relatives of patients and doctors,
the survey revealed. Only 11 % of the nurses denied harassment and 29 % refused
to talk about it.
According to the survey, the nurses were exposed to unwelcome physical advances
and sexual innuendos on a routine basis. In some cases, the offenders showed
disgraceful and insulting behavior towards them. However, the incidents were
usually hushed up or blocked by the interference of other staff members who held
a grudge against the victim, the survey said.
A large number of the women employed in the private and public sector were also
routinely harassed by their bosses or senior colleagues, so were sales girls
employed in up market plazas and malls. Domestic workers too were found to be
victims of sexual harassment by influential families. 91 % of domestic workers
aged between 14 and 30 said they had faced some abuse at the hands of their
employers. Nine per cent did not want to share their experiences.
The domestic helps were sexually harassed and even raped by their bosses or
their relatives and friends. Some were even sold to strangers for a night, it
Women students waiting at bus stops often have to put up with lewd remarks, the
These are some prominent forms of violence that we see in Pakistan and Pakistani
NGOs in Pakistan
In Pakistan, different NGOs are working to prevent and uproot the forms of
violence from the Pakistani Society. They not only protect the victims, address
their issues, help them raise their voices for justice and also bring awareness
among the masses of Pakistani society against violence. Some of NGOs that are
working include Madadgaar, UNHRCP, Aurat Foundation, ASAR, Shirkat Gaah and
Acids Survivor Foundation Pakistan.
Since majority of the cases of domestic violence take place against women and to
protect them male chauvinist society.
Giving a brief overview the study, I can say that majority of brutal forms who
have developed their roots in Pakistan is because of lack of proper legislation
and implementation. Even if the laws are there, the law enforcement agencies are
always protecting their dear ones which will only give rise to more and more
cases as we can see from the figures.
The need of the hour is that we develop such mechanisms in judiciary and law
enforcement agencies that ensure speedy justice for the victims and strict
punishments for the perpetrators. Not only that the media could also play an
important role in highlighting the speedy mechanisms thereafter to send a strong
message to public about the punishments the culprits receive on violent criminal
acts. Also, the NGOs should organize seminars on monthly basis to bring
awareness to public about the brutal forms of violence. Only then we can hope to
counter the situation.