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Tuesday, October 19, 1999 Published at 00:54 GMT 01:54 UK

World: South Asia

Violence against Pakistani women worsens

The report says up to 90% of Pakistani women suffer domestic violence

By South Asia analyst Tenzin Zega

The US-based Human Rights Watch says violence against women in Pakistan has escalated to the level of a national crisis.

A report published on Tuesday says:

  • an average of eight women are raped every 24 hours
  • up to 90% of the female population is affected by domestic violence
  • there has been an alarming rise in so-called honour killings - where men kill female relatives who they believe have behaved immorally

Human Rights Watch says that despite the rise in violent crime against women, the authorities in Pakistan are doing nothing to help the victims.

The report attributes the abuse and violence to the traditionally low status of women and the active suppression of women's rights by successive governments.

The report says the most worrying and disturbing factor in these crimes is the absolute impunity with which they are committed.

It also says the increasing level of gender-based violence is exacerbated by the indifferent attitudes of government bodies like the police and a legal framework which is deeply biased against women.

Human Rights Watch says that victims of domestic violence have no access to legal protection or redress.

Samya Burney of Human Rights Watch: "The problem has to be tackled"
It says that women who try to go to court are turned away because officials consider domestic violence a private issue rather than a matter for the courts.

The report says that women who report rape or sexual assualt by strangers are marginally more successful in registering a case.

[ image: Pakistan's legal system does not criminalise all domestic violence]
Pakistan's legal system does not criminalise all domestic violence
The document calls for criminalisation of all types of domestic violence and for clear guidelines for police intervention in such cases.

Human Rights Watch says that if the new government in Pakistan is genuinely interested in legal and institutional reform then it cannot afford to ignore the issue of violence against women.

It urges the government to repeal Pakistan's rape law which allows marital rape and does not establish the crime of statutory rape.

The organisation also urges the authorities to train police and other law enforcement personnel to not be biased when women come forward to complain about domestic violence.

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