Systemic change necessary to protect women from violence in Pakistan, says Amnesty International

A day after the story of Lahori woman Asma Aziz ─ whose husband and his employees allegedly stripped her naked, beat her, and shaved her head over not dancing for them ─ made headlines, Amnesty International South Asia called for Pakistan to make systemic changes to protect women from violence.

The rights organisation in a tweet on Thursday stated that although it is “glad that strong and swift action has been taken against the torturers of Asma Aziz, we note with dismay the alarming rise in reported cases of violence against women.”

“System change to protect women is necessary,” Amnesty said. “Action can’t only be taken on a case-by-case basis.”

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Husband, employee sent on physical remand

Earlier today, Aziz’s husband and one of his employees were handed over to police on four-day physical remand.

The two were taken into custody on Wednesday after a video of Asma Aziz, the wife of one suspect, began circulating on social media. Aziz said her husband of four years had “always hit her a lot”.

“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,” she said in the video.

Aziz in a March 26 first information report said her husband of four years and and two of his employees tortured her over her refusal to dance for them. Lahore police on Wednesday arrested the husband and one of his employees.

The Investigation Officer told the judge at a district Model Town court today that the husband had admitted to shaving his wife’s head.

Prosecutor Muhammad Imran Arif submitted a police report in the court and said that investigators have yet to recover Aziz’s hair, the machine used to shave it off, as well as the stick used to beat her. The prosecution requested the court to grant a 10-day remand of the suspects.

Asma, in her video, had also alleged that when she went to the Kahna police station to register a complaint, the officers, instead of providing her the FIR number or conducting a medical examination, asked her for money.

Superintendent Model Town Muhammad Ali Wasim had taken notice of her allegations and directed the deputy superintendent of police to look into the matter.

Pakistan ranks 150 out of 153 countries on The Georgetown Institute’s Women, Peace and Security index ─ among the five worst countries for women in the world. According to 2016 data, 26.8 per cent of Pakistani women said they have experienced intimate partner violence.

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