Silent Pandemic

Dawn Editorial

Daily Dawn editorial published on December 28, 2023, highlights the surge in underreported domestic violence during the Covid-19 pandemic in Pakistan, emphasizing the urgent need for a national response beyond inconsistent laws.

It says “DOMESTIC violence — often hidden and underreported — has surged in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, a recent report by the Asian Development Bank has revealed. The loss of livelihoods, heightened stress, and enforced proximity have catalysed an alarming spike in violence against women and children. A survey by ADB found that Punjab and Sindh saw a 40pc increase in spouses threatening their partners with physical violence and a 46pc rise in physical assault. Even children were not spared. Among respondents, 27pc knew of cases where children were beaten by their parents. Such figures point to a grim reality: this deep-rooted societal issue extends far beyond the confines of the household and must now be considered a national emergency. While Pakistan has legal measures including provincial domestic violence laws, their implementation is inconsistent, and a cohesive national law is notably absent. The ADB report underscores the urgency of a multifaceted approach to this crisis. It is not solely about punitive measures but also building a supportive ecosystem for victims and addressing the underlying causes of violence.

Strengthening social protection programmes, such as the BISP, is essential. These programmes should go beyond just financial help, aiming to empower women, dismantle gender stereotypes, and provide essential support to unpaid female caregivers. Another crucial aspect is changing the societal narrative, which requires robust public awareness campaigns that challenge the normalisation of violence and encourage community support for victims. Education and sensitisation programmes can play a significant role in altering perceptions and behaviour. Furthermore, the economic empowerment of women through entrepreneurship and equal access to resources such as land and technology is vital. Empowerment challenges traditional power dynamics and reduces women’s vulnerability to abuse. The private sector’s role in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment is also critical. Corporate policies must not only support gender equality but also provide safe and equitable work environments for women. As we confront domestic violence, a collective effort from the government, civil society, and the private sector is essential. We need environments where women and children are safe and respected. This requires proactive measures, effective law enforcement, attitude shifts, and economic empowerment. The cost of inaction is too high. We must act now to ensure that our homes are sanctuaries of safety and respect, and not arenas of fear and violence.”

Acknowledgement: Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2023

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