Like many other parts of the country, a despicable and deplorable incident of violence yet awaits justice in Balochistan. Shaheena Shaheen, a Balochistan based journalist, was shot twice a unidentified man who left her body at a hospital and escaped promptly thereafter. Shaheen was a renowned social activist and journalist from Turbat. She had been working with PTV Bolan as an anchor and was also the editor of the Balochi language magazine, Dazgohar.
The initially accused culprit of her brutal murder in the name of so-called honour is her husband. However, an investigation has been launched into the homicide following medico-legal formalities at the hospital.
In 2019, a United Nations report divulged that the most dangerous place for a woman is her home. According to recent reports by the World Bank, almost one in three married Pakistani women have reported facing physical violence. Moreover, in the 2019 Women, Peace and Security Index, Pakistan ranked 164 out of 167 countries, only above Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen. Pakistan also did poorly in the Sustainable Development Goals Gender Index, ranking 113 out of 129 countries on the list. Although, the issues relating to domestic violence are vast and varied, in Pakistan, women suffer most in their roles as wives, especially in the name of “honour”.
Reports show that citizens from all strata of society, including well-educated citizens, have been involved in domestic violence and abuse cases. About a couple of months ago, news program producer Ali Salman Alvi was reported to have allegedly tortured his wife, Sadaf Zahra, to death after she confronted him about blackmailing other women. According to the FIR, there were signs of torture on his wife’s body. The initial post-mortem report suggests that Zahra was strangled to death.
Another recent domestic abuse case that came to light through social media, took place in Lahore when a man identified as Shahbaz Umar, murdered his 25-year-old wife after she refused to let him marry for the second time. According to Police, the woman’s body was found at her house and there were knife marks on her wrists.
On June 14, a woman named Bibi Hajira was murdered by her husband and brother-in-law in Balochistan’s Muslim Bagh. Just four days after this incident, on June 18, Bibi Arifa was murdered by her husband in the city of Chaman, Deobandi.
Another instance of domestic violence that stirred outrage on social media was when a woman named Zunaira was allegedly shot and killed by her husband in front of her mother and brothers. The victim’s father explained in the FIR that Zunaira’s husband of four years had tortured her numerous times in the past as well.
Even people from the Pakistani showbiz industry are involved in such cases. Recently Fatima Sohail, the wife of Pakistani actor Mohsin Abbas Haider, accused him of violence and the case created an uproar not only on social media but also on mainstream media. The list of reported domestic violence cases is far from exhaustive, and the number of cases is so vast and varied that it seems immeasurable. Pakistan has a very high rate of domestic abuse cases.
According to a study carried out in 2019 by the Human Rights Watch, an estimated 30 to 40% of women in Pakistan have suffered some form of abuse. Violence against women includes honour killings, acid attacks, domestic violence, and forced marriages among other acts. There has also been a staggering 30% rise in domestic abuse cases amidst the COVID-19 quarantine and self-isolation in the country.
Indeed this worsening state of affairs raises questions over the Government’s role and initiatives to prevent domestic violence crimes in Pakistan. Although several laws for the protection of women have been devised, yet there is still an alarming rise in domestic violence cases in the country.
In recent years, reforms designed to protect women and prosecute ‘honour killings’, such as the Women’s Protection Bill, the Acid and Burn Crime Bill, the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, and Offences in the Name or Pretext of Honour, Act of 2016, have all come into law. The government has also asked the Interior Ministry to table another ‘anti-torture’ bill in the National Assembly.
Despite countless legal action and reforms, the country’s women are suffering. It seems as if a cultural shift is needed to de-normalize this behaviour. In such a cultural transformation, the role of religious beliefs and faith is important. Religion is an organized collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to moral values. Religion can also be a catalyst in raising awareness regarding women’s rights and preventing domestic abuse in Muslim societies.
Certainly, Islam is not just a religion, it is a complete Code of Life. There is an entire chapter in the Quran related exclusively to women’s rights, titled Al-Nisa or The Women. This is the fourth chapter of the Holy Book. Prophet Mohammad (SAW) laid emphasis on treating wives gently in his Last Sermon. The Prophet Mohammad (SAW) said:
“O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under a trust from God and with His permission. As they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. I enjoin you to treat women kindly for they are your partners and committed helpers.”
Moreover, the Holy Qur’an and the Hadiths of the Prophet (SAW) are full of mentions of the rights of women, especially as wives.
Firstly, the Qur’an affirms that marriage is based on Love and Mercy:
“And among his signs to this: that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest and peace of mind in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Certainly, herein indeed are signs for people who reflect.”(30-21)
The Holy Qur’an also assures that:
“Good women are for Good men” (24-26)
Islam also condemns cruelty and abuse by saying:
“There is to be no harm nor reciprocating of harm.” (Sunan Ibn Majah- 2341)
Domestic violence is forbidden in Islam, as the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said:
- “Do not strike the female servants of God.”- (Sunan Abi Dawud- 2146)
- “Do not hit them and do not revile them.” (Sunan Ibn Majah 2341)
- “How does one of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then embraces her?” (Sahih Bukhari)
- “The best of you are those who are best to their wives” (Sahih Tirmidhi)
These are all just a few of the instances in the Holy Qur’an and Hadith that show that Islam has never condoned or encouraged any kind of violence against women. There is no doubt that Islam being a ‘Complete Code of Life’ gives immense and exclusive rights to the women especially as wives and condemns any sort of violence against them. Indeed, if all men learn and remember the true injunctions and instructions of Islam with regard to women and their rights; we can be a moderate society with a noteworthy decline in domestic violence cases.