Gender Based Violence in Gilgit-Baltistan

Mesum Qasmi

Gender-based violence is the violence or coercion that culminates in physical, sexual and mental suffering of of an individual based on their gender. It circumscribes threats and arbitrary deprivation of liberty of gender in private or public walks of life. The literacy rate of Gilgit-Baltistan is higher than many other provinces but unfortunately gender-based violence is widespread across Gilgit-Baltistan.

According to a survey, a staggering 78% of women in Gilgit-Batlistan ‘accept wife-beating’. Respondents were further asked to explain the reason that could justify wife-beating. Some of the reasons identified by the women were, “if the woman goes out without telling the husband, neglects the children, argues with her husband, refuses copulation or burns the food.”

The study is an eye opener for everyone because it demonstrates that women themselves are proponents of battering. The women are either oblivious of their rights or they have become immune due to entrenched and normalized direct, financial, cultural and structural violence. The so called proponents are unaware that the batterers want to exert control and influence through coercion, threats, male privilege emotional abuse and blackmailing. A few men in Gilgit-Baltistan think of females as commodity to satiate their physical desires. The very class idealizes contemporary socio-biological theory of gender based violence which dominates men over women due to physical strength and evolution of man’s aggression since the primitive era of hunting.

Sadly, cases of women harassments in Karakorum International Gilgit are yet another example of gender based violence. The female students in educational institutions, including KIU, are not safe. Child abuse and rape are common these days. The misery is that they are not even discussed, considering them tab0o, hidden behind the veil of tribal or communal honor.

Let me remind you about the incident of a juvenile, Zainab’s, rape some years back when her rape had been declared a “clerical mistake” despite of thorough verification via medical report and agile investigation of Gilgit-Baltistan Police. Father Najeeb of the victim committed suicide when he was given deaf ears by echelons.

The tale of violence doesn’t stop here. A bride, Adiba, was recently strangled to death by in-laws in Shimshal (Hunza), Gilgit-Baltistan most recently. The body was left on river-bank. Though an FIR was registered and the alleged murderers were apprehended but they were released on bail. Protests were staged across Gilgit-Baltistan, as well as in Islamabad and Karachi.

Hence the threat posed to lives of women by domestic violence in Gilgit-Baltistan cannot be underplayed. How could the in-laws kill the newly wed bride, take her body to a riverbed, leave it in open and painted it as suicide! It is heartless and cruel, to see the least!

Despite of this endemic social disease, outdated practices and dogmas provide no room to start a disclosure on violence against woman. There have been agitations against right to vote ,wage gap patriarchy of society but “Marital-Rape” at home is not even discussed. Marital-rape is the domestic violence of structural form our women are totally unware of. It is also considered a sensitive issue and hidden behind the façade of “Nikah” the legal contract between two parties i.e., husband and wife to get into marriage, as if it is a license of coercion and rape.

Unfortunately Nikah doesn’t qualify a woman to be submissive round the clock besides mood swings due to dysmenorrhea ,sickness or tiresome. Husbands need to understand the weaknesses and sufferings her body is prone to. Woman is no more a tool and commodity to pacify and satiate physical desires rather an institution for upcoming generations. Gender based violence must be challenged and stopped in order to lead a progressive society. We all need to raise our voice against harassments and violence to empower women, considering them equal human beings, not commodities.

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