Pakistan: Laws fail to check violence against women

Twenty-two-year-old Ammara [name changed to protect identity] rarely stepped out of her family’s haveli, mansion, in a remote village in Pakistan’s Sindh province.

Her father, a feudal lord, never felt the need to send her to school, or anywhere else, and provided her with all of life’s comforts and luxuries within the confines of the haveli.

“I had never imagined I would leave the haveli for a place like this but my father left me with no other option when he told me I must marry the alcoholic, twice-married man he had chosen for me,” Ammara told Al Jazeera inside a tiny room at a women’s shelter home in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi.

It has been six months since she ran away from home along with her nine-year-old sister, fearing the same fate for her once she grew up.

“I grew up watching my father decide the fate of too many innocent, helpless women in karo-kari (honour killing) cases.”

Ammara managed to escape but that is not the case for hundreds of other women in Pakistan.

Eighteen-year-old Zeenat Rafiq was burnt alive by her mother in Lahore earlier this month. Her crime, according to her mother, was marrying a man of her choice and against the family’s will.

Police said Parveen Rafiq, Zeenat’s mother, was assisted by her son and husband of her other daughter as they avenged Zeenat “bringing shame to the family”.

Zeenat’s fate was no different from that of a 19-year-old teacher in the hilly town of Murree, who was assaulted, burned alive and thrown behind her family home by a group of men. She had reportedly refused to marry the principal’s son.

She died due to the 85 percent burns in an Islamabad hospital a day later.

‘Lightly beat the wife’

Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), a constitutional body responsible for ensuring no legislature in the country is repugnant to Islam, has drawn up a 163-point bill enlisting women’s rights as well as actions it deems non-permissible for women.

The group recently declared it is permissible for a man to “lightly beat” his wife “if needed”.

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