Gender violence, or violence against women and girls, should be relabelled as terrorism, according to University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) political scientist Lisa Sharlach, Ph.D. She has written numerous articles about the use of state-sponsored violence against women in places like Rwanda, Bangladesh and Bosnia-Herzegovina. She is now focusing her attention on Pakistan.
Sharlach says that more than 1,300 women in Pakistan were murdered by their own family members between 1999-2002 in the name of regaining family honor. A woman can become the victim of an honor killing if she is seen in public with men who are non-relatives or if she is raped, Sharlach said. Once prevalent in rural parts of Pakistan, incidents of honor killings are now occurring in the cities, she said. Despite efforts to stop such practices, the Legislature has refused to enforce stiff penalties against perpetrators.
In addition to the problem of honor killings, the rape laws in Pakistan are some of the worst in the world, Sharlach said. In Pakistan, women who charge rape can't testify on their behalf.
"Until just recently, if a woman charged rape, but could not produce at least four Muslim males as witnesses, she could be jailed for bringing the charges," says Sharlach, "The problem is that a parallel justice system exists in Pakistan, and the tribal courts have discriminatory laws against women. Unfortunately, the state has no control over tribal rulings."