On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women,
AWID interviews Muhammad Usman Ghani - Lawyer and Chairman of Survive
Welfare Organisation in Pakistan, where violence against women remains a
AWID: Tell us about the work of Survive welfare Organization – how did the
organization evolve? What specific work is the organization doing?
Survive Welfare Organization (SWO) is a non government and non profit
organization working in Pakistan since May 04, 2004 with the sole object to
provide the basic necessities of life and to solve grievances. Specifically,
the SWO was established for the welfare and betterment of neglected women in
Pakistan deprived of their basic constitutional rights, and to provide women
with the basic necessities of life like education, health and protection.
SWO applies all its funds for the welfare and protection of women, and
works for the safety and protection of innocent women who are victims of
domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment and those women who
have deserted from their houses.
SWO also provides free legal aid and legal advice to indigenous women who
can not afford expensive legal consulting for acquiring their legitimate
rights being encroached by a cruel society. The organization helps women to
register their cases with police so as to put the law in motion, and
similarly files civil / criminal suits in the court so as to protect and
preserve their rights.
SWO educates people about gender sensitive active non-violence and strives
to spread general awareness that there should be no discrimination among
global people especially due to their gender.
Finally, the SWO provides technical training to indigenous women by
providing them with free sewing machines so that in cases where the women
are sole bread winner of their family, they can afford the expenses of
their children and run their domestic affairs.
AWID: Domestic Violence is an issue of concern in Pakistan. Could you tell
us about the severity of domestic violence in Pakistan and how women are
currently protected by the Law and the judicial system, and are yet unable
to seek justice?
Every year hundreds of women of all ages in Pakistan are killed in the name
of Honour Killing. During the last year 1,261 cases of honour killing were
reported; honour killing and Karo-Kari is a custom of killing mostly women
who are accused of having sexual relations with strangers. Karo is when a
man is killed; Kari when a woman is killed.
In 2004, at least 43 acid attacks took place in Pakistan, with disputes
over matters of matrimony or domestic arguments appearing to be the most
common reason behind the acid attacks. About 14 acid attacks have occurred
in 2005, with this practice destroying the lives of hundreds of women in
Pakistan. Another brutal action of domestic violence in Pakistan is where a
newly married girl receives mental and physical torture by her in-laws, or
they kill her through the explosion of a clay stove and pretend it to be an
accident. Last year in Pakistan 7000 women were burnt in domestic violence
Pakistani women are also victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment,
with thousands of women becoming victims of sexual assault. Unfortunately
these women are forced to compromise with the rapist because in the
Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) rape is a non compoundable offence and Judges and
local police compel the victim to compromise for a small amount of money due
to their poverty, without giving the rapist a sentence.
The victims of domestic violence are refused the right to register their
cases against the alleged accused, because police discourage the victims
family from seeking justice on the grounds that the legal expenses are too
high and often the accused are influential and have police protection.
As many as 44 countries have enacted legislation on domestic violence.
While Pakistan does not have specific legislation on it, there are sections
of the Pakistan Penal Code and other laws that can be used to invoke justice
for the victim, Still, domestic violence is not a crime against the state,
and no special laws in Pakistan has been drafted having special remedies
and procedures. Violence against women is perpetrated when legislation, law
enforcement and judicial systems condone or do not recognize domestic
violence as a crime
Women who attempt to report abuse encounter serious obstacles. Police tend
to respond to such reports by trying to reconcile with the concerned
parties rather than filing charges and arresting the perpetrators. Further
compounding the problem, the doctors who perform examinations are likely to
be skeptical to women’s claim of abuse.
AWID: Are these Laws enough for the protection of women and for seeking
justice for victims? What are the major flaws? What role do cultural
These Laws are not enough to meet the end of justice because as the two
authorities having the force of Law (police & court) are not enforcing
it, mere legislation on any Bill is not sufficient unless it is implemented
by the law enforcing agencies. Police who are supposed to stand guard of
life, honor & property of people are the first to violate the law
because they think that they are not accountable to any authority thus
misusing their power and duties. Police mostly support the version of the
accused party - they never favor innocent women to whom wrong has been done
but force the women and her family to patch up relations with the accused
and to withdraw both the FIR registered with police and the case pending in
court. Women are threatened with adverse consequences using threats &
intimidation to the victim discouraging them to seek justice with fear of
harm to their family, honor and property.
On the other side the court is sometimes reluctant to entertain the cases
of victims and to penalize the accused in accordance with Law. The major
reasonfor this is that judges are approached by the accused party, who are
often influential and rich, and so on these grounds the cases of victims
are dismissed. The other major flaw is that victims are poor and unable to
afford the legal expenses. For these reasons many victims can not claim any
relief from the court.
Cultural barriers do play a pivotal role in discouraging the victim from
recourse to Law because the families of victims think that if society comes
to know that any person has done wrong with their daughter, sister, wife or
mother they would be disgraced in the society & community and their
relatives would abandon relations with them. If they could not find any
suitable match for their women for marriages, people would taunt them and
would laugh on their helplessness - this is why the families of victims
prevent her from registering the case or filing any suit against the
accused and also want to avoid any media publication.
AWID: How are women mobilizing for change in Pakistan?
The media has played a vital role in mobilizing women for particular causes
like domestic violence & sexual harassment and assault. Those cases
which were not registered with police in their daily diary and those cases
which were pending in the court were all entertained in an expeditious
manner through the media as a result of women''s mobilization, highlighting
the government''s inefficiency and lack of concern regarding women''s human
rights. This has had an effective and fruitful result because the
government has issued directions to police & the court to work in
accordance with the Law and justice - so many changes have been seen.
Women''s organizations have launched campaigns, demonstrations, protests and
marches through out the country with the support of electronic and print
media who transmit their voices to every nook and corner of Pakistan and as
well other parts of the world. This also shows consolidation between these
women''s organizations. The media has encouraged the women of Pakistan to
join hands with these Women''s organizations and to assemble for their
protection & safety. Thousands of women have joined these associations
and organizations which means that women of the country promote and
encourage women''s mobilization in Pakistan.
AWID: What urgent changes need to be made and how?
Government should constitute a council or a committee to monitor whether
there is any violation of women''s human rights in any part of the country.
They should take urgent action against any such authority or official who
causes a hindrance in the implementation and enforcement of law, and any
officer guilty of misconduct or misuse of power should be impeached and
given an exemplary punishment so that no government servant dares to
violate the Law with this perspective that he is not accountable to any
The government should promote and encourage the media with exclusive
liberty to work, focus and criticize any government policy which is
detrimental to Human Rights, and if any Bill has been passed in the
Legislature or any Enactment has been framed which is against Fundamental
Rights conferred by the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, it shall be declared
null and void. It should be revised and reconsidered before it is brought
One example here is the Honour Killing Bill which was passed by the
National Assembly of Pakistan and was completely against the fundamental
rights. Due to this legislation, thousands of women were killed for
different reasons and causes and later it was given the name of Honor
Killing so that the accused may not be punished in accordance with the Law.
It was a heinous offence committed at the national level being incorporated
by the legislation of the National Assembly. Such legislation had never
been framed in Pakistan''s history, although now this legislation has been
overruled - but many lives were lost due to this legislation.
For more information, contact Survive Welfare Organisation:
19-A Abbot Road, Lahore - Pakistan.
Email: email@example.com or