Violence against women rises in Pakistan

Violence against women in Pakistan was on the rise in 2011, with 8,000 cases reported to the authorities.

Islamabad: Violence against women in Pakistan -- from domestic incidents to sexual assaults -- was on the rise in 2011, with 8,000 cases reported to the authorities.

According to incidents registered at police stations, courts and complaint cells, there was a 13 percent increase since 2008, Dawn News reported Sunday.

"This number is still unrepresentative of the issue on the ground, as our social norms prevent a majority of the cases from being reported," said Omer Aftab, national coordinator of the White Ribbon Campaign Pakistan.

The campaign is one the biggest efforts to end violence against women. It relies on volunteer support and financial contributions from individuals as well as organisations.

Bani Amin, inspector general of police (IGP) Islamabad, said cases filed at women`s police stations remained in double digits for all months of the year.

There were many cases last year in which women could not get justice because police were slow to take action, the daily said.

On Jan 12, 2011, Binish Fatima, a 20-year old student, was kidnapped by three men when she was returning home from a local tuition centre. Her brother lodged a complaint with the police and named the suspect but the police allegedly said the woman had eloped.

Fatima`s body was found in Karachi in February. She had been gang-raped and then murdered.

In another case Feb 25, 2011, 25-year old Huma Rehman, working with an Islamabad NGO, was gang-raped, tortured and poisoned to death. By the time she was brought to hospital, she had suffered extensive brain damage and had to be put on a ventilator. It allegedly took police three weeks to register a case and arrest an accused. However, the woman showed no chance of recovery and had to be taken off the ventilator.

The top police official said that it was "unfortunate" that whenever a woman filed a case, the issue was resolved through a "patch-up" or "reconciliation".

"Family members become judges and give decisions. However, in case of disputes between two tribes or opposing groups, women are able to get justice as their families are far more supportive of their stance then. It will take some years before women rise for their rights," he said.

Aftab said women who work late hours with male colleagues were especially vulnerable to assault.

He said the media had "still not warmed up" to the idea of giving women-related matters more space. "There is a need to give a positive image of women through the media, as it has the power to influence the mindset of the masses," he said.