To suffer at the hands of those you trust, are close to through blood or marriage, and are dependent on ways material and emotional, the toll is huge, and the way to justice complex and dark [Illustrative image] Image Credit: Pixabay

Her face was bruised. There was blood from her nose, her eyes were swollen and black, and there were marks on her jawline, back and other parts of body. Around her neck were dark marks, an indication of attempted strangulation.

Allegedly, it was her husband, his brother and some of his relatives who inflicted violence on her. Tying her hands, they hit her with rubber belts and rods. According to her, it was a dowry-related issue even after ten years of marriage, and the demand was to bring more money from her parents.

She is a resident of Lahore; her name is Hajra bibi.

The police on the lodging of Hajra’s First Information Report (FIR) under sections 354 and 506 of the Pakistan Penal Code have apprehended her husband, Umair Noorani, while the search is on for other suspects.

March 2019: She was, allegedly, physically and mentally tortured. Repeatedly, locked up in a room, she was beaten, with her eyes poked with fingers, death threats made to her to further terrify her. It was not a stranger but allegedly her husband who inflicted violence on her.

She is a resident of Lahore; her name is Sonia.

A case has been filed against her husband, his name unspecified in media reports, and the process has been initiated for his arrest.

March 2019: Her head shaved, her face bruised, and terrified, her story of alleged torture went viral on media. Humiliated at the police station where she went to file a report, she had to post a video on social media, and had to speak to media to get attention to her plight.

According to her, the perpetrator was her husband and members of his domestic staff: “He took my clothes off in front of his employees. The employees held me as he shaved my hair off and burned it. My clothes were bloody. I was bound by a pipe and hung from the fan. He threatened to hang me naked.” The alleged reason was her refusal to dance in front of his friends.

Before and after shots of shaved head
Wife posts before and after shots of her face, pleading for justice Image Credit: Social media

The police, under sections 337(v) and 506 of the Pakistan Penal Code, have arrested her husband and some other suspects.

She has been married to Mian Faisal for four years, and according to her, beating was a constant part of her marital life.

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She is a resident of Lahore; her name is Asma Aziz.

Three women, three stories, made public. Countless women, countless stories, never made public.

What has happened is neither new nor shocking despite its intrinsic horror in a country where violence against women is as commonplace as violence against children or any other being that is weak physically or in any other form. The phenomenon of violence on woman is neither any country-specific, nor is it limited to any particular background, ideology, mindset or culture. Its inception, its appearance, its occurrence and its justification may be varied, but in most cases, it stems from the same narrative: the need to control.

What may not be possible to control emotionally and mentally can always be controlled through physical power. What cannot be moulded as per the whims and the idea of one person’s perfection can always be broken through physical power. What is not in ideal pieces that it is wished to be in can always be shattered in absolute through physical power. Children and women become the easiest to prey upon, to unleash anger on, to mould through violence. Some of them speak up, and find belated but much-needed justice. Most of them simply suffer in silence, their body healed, their soul in long torment, their mind broken for ages.

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To suffer at the hands of those you trust, are close to through blood or marriage, and are dependent on ways material and emotional, the toll is huge, and the way to justice complex and dark. Justifications are aplenty, pretexts to unleash wrath on the weak many, and there is always the cover of familiarity, intimacy and the so-called sanctity of a relationship to keep the battering of body and mind under wraps. What happens within a home is private, and despite the enormity of its awfulness, it must never leave the walls that protect dark family secrets and skeletons more strongly than the vaults of Swiss banks have safeguards for unaccounted-for money. Pain inflicted under various justifications by those who claim to love is not considered an atrocity against humanity, a culpable crime or a sin as per religion. It is a trifle to be easily forgiven. It is a no big deal to be forgotten soon.

Another thing that has opened many an uneasy debate in Pakistan after Asma’s case is the ease with which victim-blaming and character assassination are used as a justification to physically torture a woman. “She deserved it” becomes easier than to have a hard look within and on societal attitudes in which trivialisation of violence on women is an everyday occurrence, and whataboutery after every violent crime by a man is manifested in all its ugly cringe-worthy blatancy. The idea of NO is non-existent when it comes to an interaction with a spouse, a partner or a family member. The importance of consent is merely limited to the paper it is written, be it religious, legal or social.

The so-called moral code of a victim becomes the barometer of the justification for her “punishment.”

- Mehr Tarar

It is the cases of women like Hajra and Sonia that show that there is no one victim of violence. That violence is basically about control and not who it is that “needs” to be controlled. Here, it is the self-proclaimed judges of morality who decide who fits the image of a real victim, the “ideal” victim. Here, violence is justified with who deserves to be punished and by whom. Here, a victim needs to present a certificate of piety to become eligible for justice.

There is not much that has changed, and not much that will change. Despite it being forbidden by religious, moral, social and legal codes of ethics, violence on women is that dark reality of the world that is in perpetuation for many reasons, two being dominant. Women must be controlled, and in many cases through violence. And that there is always a justification for that violence.

Unless those who inflict violence begin to look within that there is absolutely NO justification for any form of mind and body-breaking violence on any woman, any human being, there were, there are, and there will be many more Hajras, Sonias and Asmas everywhere in the world. There will be no change until all victims are given an equal chance to get justice. It is the crime against an individual not her alleged character or misdeed that must be taken into consideration for a fair trial.

Beyond a certificate of good or bad character, good or bad behaviour, there must be a guarantee of that one fundamental human right: safety of life.