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A ghastly ‘punishment’

May 16, 2018


IN a horrific act of familial violence, a young man, beginning his adult life, has been left sightless. As reported, the 22-year-old, hailing from a village near Loralai in Balochistan, had approached his parents hoping to convince them to send a marriage proposal to a woman he wanted to wed. Matters needlessly escalated to a point where the mother was forcibly removed from the scene, and the victim’s father, along with his other sons, meted out his own unique brand of punishment by gouging out the eyes of his youngest. A police case was registered in the aftermath; two of the four brothers who abetted the father in the crime were arrested while the search for the remaining perpetrators continues.

It is commendable that the police took quick action in this crime of monstrous proportions — and it is hoped that the guilty are duly punished. Unfortunately, the swiftness with which this case has been handled is the exception, rather than the norm. While laws to protect individuals from family-inflicted violence have been strengthened in recent years, for most victims, the wheels of justice don’t turn at all — in part because many crimes such as spousal violence, corporal punishment, child sexual abuse, even ‘honour’ killings, go unreported. It is essential to understand and explore the causes both from a legal and societal perspective. The inability to resolve family crises amicably, a lack of coping skills to navigate family relations and deficient self-esteem can lead to violent acts within family units. No longer can society afford to define personhood conditionally through values reinforced by a patriarchal society; instead, we should recognise personhood as an individual’s right to inherent human dignity to be protected by the state and its machinery. The Pakistani justice system should not allow patriarchal constructs to perpetuate violence, misogyny and intolerance.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2018