Rarely do women report cases of violence. They bear with consistent beating by their husbands and, sometimes, the in-laws as well.
Very few cases get reported, and yet the number of women reporting violence is said to have increased. Sometimes there is a bid to kill. Cases that reach the hospitals are the ones where violence was committed repeatedly. Nobody brings up a case at the very outset, say the doctors.
A doctor on duty at the Medico Legal department of Ganga Ram Hospital tells TNS, requesting anonymity, that she receives an average of six to seven cases (of violence against women) in a week. “The ones that reach here are from police stations around the hospitals like Mozang, Civil Lines, Samanabad, Women Police Station Chauburji and Sabzazar; not from outside Lahore.
“Once the women leave the hospital they do not come back for a follow-up. Most cases are not pursued, maybe because of family pressure.”
When requested, the doctor shares some cases: “Once, a woman came to us who had been battered by her husband as well as her younger sister-in-law. The latter intentionally poured steaming hot tea on her which burnt her skin. She would also heat a knife on the stove and cause burns on parts of her body. Even her private parts had been burnt.”
The doctor revealed that the woman had a five years old daughter. “Will the child grow up to be a normal person, in such an environment?” she asked.
“When she came to us, she hadn’t taken bath in more than a month, and was stinking. The police arrested the cruel sister-in-law on the complaint of the woman’s grandmother and an uncle.”
The doctor speaks of another young woman whose husband beat her almost every day, and after he was done his mother and sisters would start to hurt her. Her in-laws would lock her up in a room at times. She would lie there, all by herself. Once, when everybody in the house was out somewhere, she mustered the courage to cry for help. The neighbours heard her cries and screams, and they broke the lock and pulled her out. She was so scared that she ran for life barefoot.
Yet another woman who had been married for 20 years went to police and reported physical violence committed by her husband, a civil servant. What brought her to challenge the man was her 18 years old daughter who was witness to the savage behaviour of her father.
The hospital does not receive rape cases in time, the doctor warns. “Only two out of a hundred [rape] cases reach us. For instance, there was a case in which a girl had eloped with a boy. When their relationship fell apart, the girl contacted her family who accused the boy of rape. The girl wanted divorce. At the same time, she reported she had been raped by her husband. This was confusing.” Pakistani law says nothing specific about marital rape but the Pakistan Penal Code section 375 in its comprehensive definition of rape classifies it as non-consensual sex forced upon any woman, making no mention of marital status. However, no case of marital rape has ever been registered in Pakistan.
She had been raised by a maternal uncle who made the arrangements for her wedding that was due to take place against her wishes. So, she ran away with all the dresses that had been prepared for her and her maternal cousin (mamu’s daughter). She also took away all the jewellery.
At the Mayo Hospital’s Medico Legal department, Dr Hammad, a young doctor on duty, says: “Women do not go for parcha (FIR). It is when the family or neighbours push them that they gather courage to reach out to the police.”
He also talks about a woman who was beaten by her son. She lived with a fractured arm for a few months and did not report. Later, her son beat her up again and she got a head injury, which was when her neighbours intervened and brought her to the hospital. She received treatment but did not pursue the case.
Here is another case that he shares with TNS: A man admitted in the TB ward (of Mayo Hospital) expired. He had no attendants. In such a situation, the case is referred to the Medico Legal department of the hospital that searches for the deceased’s family for burial. So the department found an ID card in his shirt pocket and sent two men at the address given on it. This was somewhere in the old city. A woman opened the door. The team inquired if it was the deceased’s house, and the woman replied in negative and shut the door. They again looked at the address and confirmed if it was the same as written on the ID card. They again knocked at the door. Again, the same woman opened the door. The men repeated the question louder. Hearing them, someone in the house came forward and exclaimed, “Mera puttar!” (My son).
It transpired that the man had a wife who he used to beat up. One day he beat her so much that she fainted. There were only three people in the house at the time — he, his wife, and his mother. He doused the fainted woman with oil and threw a lighted matchstick on her. She burnt to death. The family later said they often chided him for beating her, and would try to stop him but he wouldn’t listen. He told the police his mother had burnt his wife and the mother took the blame upon her and served seven years in jail. The family kicked him out for good and refused to own him even after his death.
At the Emergency of Mayo Hospital, a doctor speaks of receiving a case from outside Lahore, of a woman whose husband had axed her left leg, but did not elaborate.
TNS could not find any consolidated data on violence against women at the two hospitals it sought information from.
The plight of domestic servants is no better
Lawyers that take up criminal cases too have several stories of violence to share. Rai Haq Nawaz, Advocate, Lahore High Court, tells TNS a story of a domestic help from his village — Chak No 198 EB, Vehari District.
Sumaira Bibi, a 14-year-old, was working at wadera Mumtaz Noor’s house. The domestic workers there are called ‘kammi/kameen’ or ‘musalli.’ The girl’s parents who had arranged for her marriage asked the employers to relieve her of her duty. The employers asked Sumaira’s parents to postpone the wedding for two years but the family refused and took her away. Enraged, one of the employers picked up the girl from her place and his wife, the lady of the house chopped her hair out of revenge. Her wedding was due on November 27; the parents lodged an FIR with the police on Nov 29.
“The labour class earn as low as Rs2,000 a month; they cannot bear any financial pressure, cannot pursue a case on their own,” says the lawyer. “This should be an uncompoundable offence but it is not so.”
In the same family, a girl who was Sumaira’s first cousin worked at a rich man’s house. They didn’t pay her for six months. They had a driver who they married her off to. She was found dead three days later. It could not be ascertained whether she had committed suicide or been killed by the driver. A case was never registered.
You listen to the villagers, and this is all you are told. Very poor people are unable to fight their battles in court.