Women Bargaining Chips In Family Feuds In Pakistan, Says Rights Panel

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MULTAN – On April 14, two men entered Asma Firdous’ home, cut off six of her fingers, slashed her arms, lips and nose. Before leaving the house, the men locked their 28-year-old victim inside.

Asma, from impoverished Kohaur Junobi village in Pakistan’s south, was mutilated because her husband was involved in a dispute with his relatives, and they wanted revenge. Her fate is familiar in parts of Pakistan’s remote and feudal agricultural belts, where women are often used as bargaining chips in family feuds.

Pakistan is the world’s third-most dangerous country for women, after Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, said a survey conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. In its own 2010 report, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says 800 women were victims of “honour killings” and 2,900 women raped, almost eight a day. The bulk, almost 2,600, were raped in Punjab alone, Pakistan’s most populous and prosperous province.

And the numbers are rising: media reports say crimes against women have risen 18% in the year till May and the rights commission believes its figures represent only a fraction of attacks which take place across the country.

Dr Farzana Bari of Quaid-e-Azam University says a patriarchal society condones violence against women, especially in rural families.