Reactions to Asma Aziz's domestic violence case are proof that women are in crisis in Pakistan

Reactions to Asma Aziz's domestic violence case are proof that women are in crisis in Pakistan

From blaming 'love marriages' to asking the victim to forgive her husband, we're handling domestic abuse all wrong
29 Mar, 2019

Earlier this week police in Lahore arrested two men on allegations that they had tortured and abused a woman.

The woman is Asma Aziz, and the two suspects included her husband, Faisal. In a video circulating on social media, Asma said Faisal "took my clothes off in front of his employees [domestic staff]. 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."

She said that when she went to the Kahna police station to register a complaint, "they asked me for money". She added that the police had, instead of providing her the FIR number or conducting a medical examination, asked her for money.

Read: How to respond when a sexual abuse survivor comes forward with their story

The case quickly captured attention on social media, with prominent personalities including Shireen Mazari condemning the incident and calling for justice to be served.

However, at the same time, other reactions proved that our culture of silencing women with victim-blaming and harassment is perhaps worse than ever. How do we get this to stop?

Here are some things one should never do when faced with a claim of domestic violence:

Do not coerce the victim to return to her abuser

A City 42 journalist who interviewed Asma asked her if she'd forgive her husband and fall in love with him again if he apologised in court. Talk about inconsiderate.

One of the many reasons perpetrators get away with violence against women is because survivors are forced by society to go back to toxic households and abusive relationships. Women are painted out to be hysterical and fussy, they're told "men will be men.

It's already very difficult for victims of domestic violence to escape from their abusers; they are psychologically tortured and gaslighted and abuse thrives on silence. If a survivor wants out of an unsafe environment, be supportive instead of telling them to return to that situation. Ask: “What can I do to help?”. If they were strong enough to make the decision to leave, encourage them.

Do not use the concept of 'love marriages' to shame and blame the victim

How is it at all relevant that Asma and her husband had married for love? Why do media houses feel the need to mention this while reporting the case?

Let's get one thing straight: marriage is a gamble.

You could have a love marriage and the person you thought you knew could change. You could have an arranged marriage and realise you found your soulmate. Saying that the reason why she was abused is because she had the gall to pick her own life partner is insensitive and victim-blaming behaviour, which may as well be our national sport if Twitter is any indication.

Do call for the police force to be sensitised to domestic violence and harassment

When Asma took her case to the police, she claims they asked her for money before registering a FIR and refused a medical examination on the same basis.

Domestic assault and harassment are very serious crimes and the police force need to be responsive to the needs of survivors while also helping them prepare a better case in case it goes to court. The traditional approach to interviewing with “who, what, when, where and how” doesn’t work well with victims who are experiencing trauma.

A lot of times, victims don't report these heinous acts precisely because when they do, they aren't taken seriously or in this case, asked for bribes. We need relevant trainings and more female officials dealing with such situations with compassion.

Additionally, journalists should also be ethical and examine their own personal biases while reporting on such issues.

Do donate to women's shelters and support networks

Abusive relationships are about control and a lot of times, that includes financial abuse. Until we move towards more pro-female legislation, coupled with legal aid, we have to make the most of the resources we have.

If you or someone you know is subjected to domestic violence, you can do something about it by referring them to women's shelters and support groups such as the CPLC's Women Complaint Cell or The Punjab Commission on the Status of Women.

Donate to NGOs and organisations like Dar-ul-Aman, Aurat Foundation, Sahil and Women's Action Forum to name a few.

All incidents of domestic violence can be reported to the Punjab Commission, from anywhere in the province. The Commission then transfers your case to the police.

If you need guidelines on how to file a First Information Report (FIR) or are having difficulty getting a case registered, you can contact them for further help.

You can also consult their Helpline Guide before calling or directly call them on 1043 (toll-free).


Scary Mar 29, 2019 05:40pm
To start with, and as a punishment, all the cash, assets including property car etc should be allocated to the victim. This will set a good example for others not to do it.
Tamanna Mar 29, 2019 06:02pm
The culprits look so relaxed in pictures probably knowing they will get away like politicians or they being their protectors.
say it Mar 29, 2019 06:16pm
The city 42 journalist should be sent for training and the larger nation should work towards changing their attitude towards women. The fact is whenever women are provided with an even field-they have surpassed men! Fact-deal with it!!!
ghazanavi Mar 29, 2019 06:20pm
Sick. Astonishing that the police refused to do anything unless they received a bribe. The police must also be punished, they are suppose to uphold the law.
ahmed Mar 29, 2019 06:24pm
First get the officers who asked for money from Asma and dismiss them. Deal with such offences by introducing balanced laws for the country. This is a sad story but glad the culprits have been arrested. With the aid of domestic workers who witnessed this incident of removing her clothes, charge the culprits. Severe punishment is very important to set example.
Ambashukla Mar 29, 2019 06:36pm
Women should be protected and provided safety by the government and life imprisonment for culprits.
Ambashukla Mar 29, 2019 06:36pm
Women should be protected and provided safety by the government and life imprisonment for culprits.
putho madre Mar 29, 2019 06:39pm
No education, No civility.
hanifsmile Mar 29, 2019 06:47pm
Bad situation no question about it. But please be realistic, this was her third marriage, she was addicted to drugs, alcohol, regularly goes to dance parties, meet strangers, what do you expect, Its obvious she met with this monster. I would blame women too in situation like these, they need to be careful, and listen to parents, I have three daughters and I give them same advise. Move in decent circle, partying everyday is not good
Sab Se Pehle Pakistan Mar 29, 2019 06:49pm
Those who are saying forgive them. Ask them what would they do if she was their own sister or daughter. Humanity should come first. Doesn't matter if it is a male or a female.
SadFaces Mar 29, 2019 07:06pm
I think the City24 journalist asked a valid question as Writer pointed out that there are people who would force her to go back and end the case. Of course if the journalist insisted the victim go back then that would have been wrong.
zane Mar 29, 2019 07:47pm
Why hasn't anyone from the police dept fired on the spot for asking for money and delaying justice. The only way this police will start to work for people when they know their neck is on the line by asking for bribes and delaying tactics.
NewBorn Mar 29, 2019 07:47pm
Transfer all the property over to her.
N abidai Mar 29, 2019 07:48pm
Plus,the media also needs to do the ground work,where does this victim goes for help. What help is aviable. What laws are there are they affective! Please high light the abuser,show his face,his name and shame him,as well!
Arshad Mar 29, 2019 07:57pm
I cannot believe in 21st century and people still have this attitude just because of gender. They should be punished as per the law. Pak police need more training and special cell in each police station do deal with these types of cases.
Rp Mar 29, 2019 08:38pm
@Scary - I agree with you whole-heartedly and would like to add that the police officers ignoring these complaints should automatically be suspended from the job until they are found to be NOT-guilty, assuming they might not be guilty. And once found guilty the protectors of law should be fined and jailed.
Farooqi Mar 29, 2019 08:50pm
Exemplary punishment require in this case, lawmakers should make tough laws against women abuse in Pakistan.
Gordon D. Walker Mar 29, 2019 09:45pm
Mental illness... Ignorance... Animal instincts... Gordon D. Walker Canada
Irfan B Mar 29, 2019 10:01pm
@Scary Could not agree with you more. I would say, also his inheritance. Additionally, 50% of all is earnings in future years. Not sure how the latter will be implemented in Pakistan, but the point is that the law needs to be extremely strict and in favor of women.
Masud Mar 29, 2019 10:06pm
It is hgh time State takes action against domestic violence. Also it should crack down on drug users and suppliers.
Pakistan First Mar 29, 2019 10:12pm
Soon the real story will come on surface...
tuk Mar 29, 2019 10:41pm
@putho madre Respectfully disagree! As I have seen many highly educated with no civility and many with no formal education with morals of gold!!
Sid Mar 29, 2019 10:59pm
first and foremost, police should be taken to task for asking for money! they are THE disgusting of all.. as for the culprits, they should be publically shamed! should be behind bars for EVER in solitary confinement!
Dr. Asif Kidwai Mar 29, 2019 11:19pm
Make an example out of him, so the next person does not dare to do the same with another person. He is worst than an animal
Mansoor Mar 30, 2019 12:00am
Why these two men are without hand cuffs?
ABE Mar 30, 2019 01:03am
Couldn't agree more with the gist of the author and her analysis of the case.
UMER Mar 30, 2019 01:14am
A long jail term if found guilty of charges and then split all assets. What an animal !! Who does that to his own wife!! We need to send a clear message if we are to strengthen women's rights in Pakistan!
Nadeem Mar 30, 2019 01:33am
It's becoming increasingly clear now from the social media that there's more to this story than what's being reported in the mainstream media. It doesn't appear to be a straight forward case of domestic abuse.
Noor Mar 30, 2019 12:37pm
Very sad....i hope the culprits must be held accountable for their disgusting acts....normally after the media blip thinks just gets into dark and eventually nothing happens...