An exceptionally talented and beautiful girl from my village was married off at the age of 16 to her cousin. I knew her since she was a small girl. I was fond of her and always encouraged her to study. After her marriage, I never heard from her nor her family for the whole one year. When we tried to speak to her, her in-laws would make an excuse and hung up the call. One day I found out that her parents visited her at the birth of her daughter. 9 months later, I finally met her. It was a nightmare. I could have never imagined that.
She was brought her to me, drenched in blood, carried by her brothers. Her in-laws, upon finding out that it was another girl she was expecting, forcefully aborted the baby and then left her on the streets in front of her parent’s house. This incident changed my whole life and I decided to stay back and work for the welfare of all the young girls and women in my village. I felt responsible, they had to be educated about their rights. They needed to be encouraged to be strong and resilient. Who was going to fight for Her?
Violence against women, at home, in workplaces and even in public spaces, needs to be addressed beyond the passage of laws. Away from any kind of social protection, women continue to experience gender-based violence as an everyday norm. Women living in rural areas are exceptionally vulnerable to violence because of their weaker social position and lack of awareness about their legal rights. Psychological violence is the most common form of domestic violence the women bear on an everyday basis, drastically effecting their mental health. One of the main reasons why domestic violence is so common in Pakistan is the deeply entrenched patriarchal norms that exist in the country. These norms place men in positions of power and authority over women and children, and they can make it difficult for women to assert their rights and seek help. Women’s low education, low income, and marriage at an early age are all other significant reasons.
Isolation, emotional, physical, and economic are the factors in why some victims stay in abusive relationships in rural areas. There are numerous behaviors employed by abusers to create isolation for their victims, such as limiting a victim’s access to her family. Ridiculing her in front of others, or accusing her of flirting thus making her even less likely to invite others to the home or go out herself. For rural victims, these abuser behaviors may be compounded by the realities of rural living, which includes lack of phone service, very limited access to routine health care, zero response from police and medical emergency teams in such cases. Above all, weather and road conditions are not good making public transport inaccessible. Also, weapons and dangerous tools are more readily available.
The only solution and the way to prevent domestic violence is to create awareness among communities. Not only among women but men also. States need to implement policies and initiate special programs for the rural communities where they all are educated of their rights. Police must be there in case of violence-related urgencies. Rural healthcare providers not only need to be able to identify domestic violence victims but also to be prepared to offer assistance that addresses the particular needs and problems of rural women. Patients experiencing abuse may have complaints or injuries that include arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, stomach ulcers, chronic pain, migraines, and eating disorders. Other closely associated complaints include insomnia, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and substance abuse. In addition, safety plans and escape options for rural women may need to be adjusted to meet the specific realities of their situations.