A Research on the Domestic Violence Against Women Over the Past Decades and Its Psychological Effects

Abuse against women is a very common occurrence in Pakistan, including sexual, physical and emotional. It is seen as a barricade, preventing Pakistani society and Pakistani women from progressing. Domestic violence and honor killings have spread like an epidemic, plaguing Pakistani society, making women feel uncomfortable and unsafe in their own home and around the people who they thought would protect them. A woman is not safe from any man around her, be it her brother, her father, her husband or even her neighbors.

Domestic abuse is growing Pakistan at an alarming rate and has had a serious psychological impact on the lives of women, negatively affecting their cognitive abilities. Such acts of violence not only strip women of their basic human right, but also prevents them from standing up for themselves and voicing their opinions without facing backlash.

Though domestic abuse takes place in both rural and urban areas, women situated in the rural areas of Pakistan are more at risk of being victims of domestic abuse. This is because of the high rates of poverty, economic instability as well as the high illiteracy rates that are found in the village areas. Along with this, the women in rural areas are also unaware of their rights and because of their weaker social status and position among the men of their villages, they are unable to protect themselves from the positions they’re forced into.

It is very clear that gender inequality between the two sexes plays a major role in the way women are treated in Pakistan. Many women don’t get to choose who they marry and often, end up in an abusive relationship, one which they often cannot get out of. Another factor adds to the higher number of domestic abuse cases is child marriages, which are most common in rural areas. Women who are in such situations, are often seen to be the victims of marital rape, which is one of the biggest forms of domestic abuse found in these areas. Marital rape is the term given to any unwanted intercourse or penetration (vaginal, anal, or oral) that takes place by force, threat of force, or when the wife is unable to consent. Marital rape cases often go unreported as many women are unaware of the fact that it is a crime and suffer in silence.

Another prevalent form of abuse that women are subject to is known as Karo-Kari, or honor killings. Honor killings take place against women in order to “avenge family ‘honour’ when a woman violates tribal or cultural norms. Honour-killing is carried out when a woman and man have an illicit relationship, or are even suspected of having one, since public perception of the woman’s guilt is considered sufficient to taint the family ‘honour””. (Syed, Anwar Ali Shah G., et al. 2016).

Acid attacks are becoming a most common occurrence in Pakistani society today, where hot acid is thrown on the faces/bodies of women by either their husbands or fathers or even neighbors, because they believe that a woman has committed an act that has brought dishonor upon their family, or if they believe that the woman is having an illicit relationship with another man, and sometimes for reasons that seem most illogical, such as not cleaning the house properly or making good food.

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, one of Pakistan’s prized two time Oscar winner highlights and exposes “the horrors endured by women whose faces are obliterated in devastating acid attacks. Her 40-minute film focuses on Zakia and Rukhsana as they fight to rebuild their lives after being attacked by their husbands, and British Pakistani plastic surgeon Mohammad Jawad who tries to help repair their shattered looks”. (Khan, Shehla Aftab. “Women in Pakistan: Pakistan acid women fear backlash over Oscar film.” Pakistan Journal of Women’snStudies: Alam-e-Niswan 19.1 (2012): 128+. Academic OneFile. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.)

Other than this, women of Pakistan are also subject to emotional abuse such as blackmail, economic abuse where they are denied funds etc. and psychological abuse where custody of children is taken away from women.

There is no doubt in the fact that after undergoing a trauma as severe as domestic abuse, the victims would suffer from severe psychological damage, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD and suicidal thoughts. for which they would need expert treatment. Over the years, many researchers have conducted case studies and experiments to link domestic abuse with a rise in mental disorders in Pakistani women.

Domestic abuse is said to have a major impact on the cognition of women and studies prove that there is a link between domestic violence and mental disorders. Psychiatric disorders are sometimes associated with domestic violence, such as borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, drug abuse, and alcoholism. It is estimated that at least one-third of all abusers have some type of mental illness. (Effect of Domestic Violence on Women Psychology in Pakistan. Shahzadi, Nuzhat Kalsoom, Qureshi, Mian Baqar Hussain, Islam, Madiha, Language in India, 19302940, Oct2012, Vol. 12, Issue 10).

When a survey was conducted, it was found that 58% of respondents that Domestic violence effects on the psychological health of women. 48% respondents agreed with the statement, “Victim of domestic violence lives under high depression and anxiety”. Many of the respondents agreed that Victim of domestic violence have lower confidence then women who are not abused. 49% respondents are agreed that Victim of domestic violence have lower self-esteem confidence then women who are not abused. (Effect of Domestic Violence on Women Psychology in Pakistan. Shahzadi, Nuzhat Kalsoom, Qureshi, Mian Baqar Hussain, Islam, Madiha, Language in India, 19302940, Oct2012, Vol. 12, Issue 10).

In another study conducted in 2011 on intimate partner violence and the psychological effect it has on women, it was found that women who were subject to abuse of any kind were more likely to be victims of mental disorders as opposed to women who were not subject to any abuse. It was found that suicidal thoughts were reported by as many as 74.1%, 75.8% and 65.3% of the women subjected to physical, sexual and psychological violence respectively.

The category of ‘feelings of worthlessness’ was also highly prevalent, reported by 47.8% of those subjected to physical violence, by 51.7% of those subjected to sexual violence and by 49.2% of those reporting exposure to psychological violence. “In the case of physical and sexual violence, the risk of suicidal thoughts was elevated four times for physical violence and for sexual violence, compared to those not exposed to any of the forms of violence”. (Ali, Tazeen S., Ingrid Mogren, and Gunilla Krantz. “Intimate Partner Violence And Mental Health Effects: A Population-Based Study Among Married Women In Karachi, Pakistan.” International Journal Of Behavioral Medicine 20.1 (2013): 131-139. PsycINFO. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.)

A study in Pakistan reported that 34% of women are physically abused, and of these 72% had anxiety/depression. (Fikree FF, Bhatti LI: Domestic violence and health of Pakistani women. Int J Gynaecol Obstet 1999, 65(2):195-201.) Another study proved that depression in married women was associated with marriages that took place when women were younger, had a lack of autonomy in marriage decisions, were the victims of marital rape and domestic abuse by in-laws. Marital rape was seen to be one of the causes for rise in depression, PTSD and anxiety in women. This was because the act often leaves the victim feeling traumatized and degraded and they often feel guilty and self-hatred too follows suit. (Ali, Faridah A., et al. “Association Of Various Reproductive Rights, Domestic Violence And Marital Rape With Depression Among Pakistani Women.” BMC Psychiatry 9.(2009): PsycINFO. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.).

Through this research paper, I was successfully able to draw a connection between a rise in mental health disorders and domestic abuse. It can clearly be seen that the psychological harm done to women by committing these acts takes a toll on their cognitive ability and health in general. This research paper highlights the different types of mental disorders that women are subject to after they’ve been abused and underscores the dire need for change in Pakistani society. An increase in awareness, proper provision of healthcare and severe action taken by the government by passing Anti-Violence laws against women etc., a step could be taken to reduce the numbers of women who not only suffer from mental disorders, but also from abuse in general.

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