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Intimate Partner Violence In Society

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Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)is a serious threat to the victim’s physical and mental health, and it has increasingly become a global concern over the past decades. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in every three women in the world suffer from IPV at some point in their lifetime (Petersson, Strand & Selenius, 2019). In addition, it is the most prevalent form of a violence against women around the world. However, research shows that there is a clear discrepancy from culture to culture. The frequency of IPV is approximately 24% in Western countries, compared to 38% in Eastern countries. Certain attitudes or values toward IPV have been socially and historically constructed by such factors as patriarchal systems and unequal gender roles. For example, IPV is rampant in Pakistan, a male-dominant society (Iqbal & Fatmi, 2018). The purpose of this paper is to examine the problem of spousal abuse of women and analyze its underlying factors within a social context through one incident reported in Pakistan.

Domestic Violence in the News

In April 2019, a Pakistani case of domestic violence appalled people all over the world. Asma Aziz of Lahore, aged 21, publicly accused her husband of abuse on social media, uploading a photo and a video of her bruised face. She asserted that her husband forced her to dance to entertain him and his friends, but she refused. Then, she claims her husband took her clothes off in front of his friends and shaved her hair off and burned it. As well, she insisted that she had been a victim of spousal abuse for a long time. She alleged that her husband started beating her while intoxicated and regularly brought his abusive friends to their house. She tried to report this to police, but officers procrastinated in investigating the affair and instead asked for money. After that, she could not trust the police, and therefore, chose to appeal for help through her private social network. Both parents had passed away, so she had no one to stand by her. Despite appealing to the public by posting the video, some people posted in response that Aziz deserved the abuse, believing her husband’s plea to the media that it was his wife who was on drugs. Moreover, a male television journalist asked her a hypothetical question: would she forgive her husband if he stated in court that he regretted his behavior. Interestingly, the news pointed out that Pakistan has not done any research on domestic violence. Further, the report reveals that women’s rights are not protected, only 50% of women living in Pakistan feel safe in their community (MacLeod, 2019).


The term IPV is generally described as any threatening behavior by a boyfriend or girlfriend, spouses, and ex-spouses. Violence is primarily taken against women by male partners and results in injury, harm, disability and even death (World Health Organization, 2017). In general, there are three domains of spousal abuse: physical, sexual and psychological (Ali, Asad, Mogren & Krantz, 2011). For physical violence, Iqbal & Zafar (2018) states that “it is ranged from scratching, pushing, punching and grabbing to the use of a weapon (e.g., gun, knife or other objects)” (p. 2). Psychological abuse entails humiliation, insulting and threatening behaviors. Sexual violence is signified by any attempted or completed sexual contact or forceful intercourse without consensus (Iqbal & Zafar, 2018). In the case of Asma Aziz, she seems to have suffered all three types of abuse. Her bruises and scratches demonstrate signs of physical violence and the action of shaving her hair off is considered insulting and humiliating. Also, the action of stripping her naked was enough to cause sexual humiliation.

Traditionally in Pakistan domestic violence is treated as a private matter. Most women tended to embrace that all issues in the home should be resolved in the family. Once disclosed, they believed that it brought shame to themselves and their family (Fikree & Bhatti, 1999). In addition, the majority of battered women are less likely to report spousal violence due to stigma and ignorance. Victims who have long experienced cruel violence by their husbands often do not recognize that domestic violence is a critical problem (Jalal, 2010). Domestic violence victims show fundamental aspects of IPV stigma such as self-stigma and anticipated stigma. Self-stigma negatively affects self-esteem, pain-control capacity, and self-efficacy. Anticipated stigma is the belief that discrimination and stereotyping will happen to the self from others once others know about their victimization. One study highlights that ‘victim-blaming’ may be a trigger of stigma. In fact, Aziz concealed the violence in her home for more than three years and was judged and blamed by some people when she eventually opened up to the public in a plea for help. People believed that she broke gender role expectations, or that she provoked her husband, thus they agreed with her husband’s violence behavior. Regardless of whether she was stigmatized during her married life, it is clear that she is more likely to be stigmatized at present or in the future (Overstreet & Quinn, 2013).

Looking into more detail, the continuity of violence in intimate relations inflicts harm. The majority of survivors from domestic violence cope with serious mental and physical aftereffects throughout their entire lives. Battered women’s exposure to persistent injuries, fear and stress eventually results in chronic pain and consistent central nervous system (CNS) symptoms such as fainting. Besides, they often complain about gastrointestinal problems including anorexia nervosa due to chronic stress. Numerous studies point to the strong association between mental health and domestic violence. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression are the greatest manifestations of spousal abuse (Campbell, 2002). Further, survivors from spousal violence shows a greater potential to experience suicidal behaviors, insomnia, and poor social skills. Findings indicate that women suffering from spousal abuse risk misusing alcohol and drugs six times more than non-domestic violence victims. In other words, the trauma of Aziz will negatively influence her quality of life due to the implication of her spousal violence (Trevillion, Oram, Feder & Howard, 2012).

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In terms of risk factors for domestic violence, gender power and male dominance are strong features in Pakistan. The patriarchal culture has long been embedded in South Asian countries including Pakistan and has played a pivotal role in shaping the attitudes and values with regard to women. Research shows that women are often exploited as a means to an end and that they are considered to be a men’s property. In countries with a top-down structure tend to embrace male-dominated power over female, thus it is legitimized that men control women (Sharma, et al., 2014). Within these countries, power and aggression represent superior masculinity and women are seen as submissive and deficient (Ali et al., 2011). As described in the news article, Asma was described as a servant or dependent controlled by her husband. If married women do not obey what their husbands tell them to do, violent behaviors are socially accepted and tolerated to promote traditional roles between sexes for an educational purpose (Zakar, Zakar & Kraemer, 2013).

In this respect, social learning theory (SLT) explains the patterns of criminal behaviors, especially aggressions against women based on culturally established patriarchal beliefs. Social learning theory developed by Albert Bandura argues that aggressive behaviors are acquired from one another and the examination of the social contexts is critical to predict aggressive behaviors (Cochran, Sellers, Wiesbrock & Palacios, 2011). SLT clearly states that people emulate role models’ behaviors, engaging in aggression and violence by observing and remembering what role models did. (Anderson & Kras, 2005). In addition, research shows that violent behaviors are learned when people observe, when people receive a reward after doing harmful behaviors, when people experience violence by others, and when people do not build a positive relationship with others. Within the differential association theory, observational learning does not necessarily require watching other people’s behaviors. In other words, people not only learn directly from others but also indirectly from various media contents including news, dramas and films (Alvarez & Bachman, 2017).

In fact, the role of women in media is often seen as sexually alluring objects to attract sponsors or weak, irrational and dependent, whereas men are portrayed as god-like or divine in Pakistan. A large number of Pakistani people believe that modern women, who are influenced by western cultures, are more likely to neglect family members. Thus, the duty of housewives is predominately portrayed as doing chores and taking care of husband and children in Pakistan media (Huda & Ali, 2015). In addition, researchers found that the majority of media framed domestic violence as a victim’s responsibility for terminating the violence. As well, they allowed the incidents to be ignored (Palazzolo & Roberto, 2011). Aziz also experienced ‘victim-blaming’ and ignorance by police officers. Within this context, it is predictable that aggressive behaviors against women in Pakistan have been established through the media’s patriarchal perspectives for a long time and now it becomes cultural norms. Aziz’s husband also has shown his abusive behaviors in accordance with the cultural customs. Therefore, the role of mass media is critical in order to promote an equal right regardless of gender against spousal violence (Zakar et al., 2013).

In order to protect women’s right to live a life free of violence, it is significant to strengthen regulations and formulate appropriate polices. Compared to the eastern countries, western countries conduct intimate partner surveys on a regular basis. The National Intimate Partner & Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) measures IPV, and they collect the victimization history of respondents to investigate accurate information. According to deterrence theory, perpetrators who are arrested for violent behaviors are less likely to do the same behaviors in the future. Thus, mandatory arrest policies are implemented to allow police officers to detain an abuser when there is a possibility of causing an assault regardless of the victim’s permission. Moreover, the United States of America offers a civil protection policy for IPV victims, which is a jurisdiction order to stop the perpetrators assaulting and inflicting harm on the women and other family members (Alvarez & Bachman, 2017). Despite planning for women’s empowerment, Pakistan has not shown any progress toward women. Also, religious parties complained that the women protection policies are violating Islamic values and asserted their withdrawal. In fact, the government established a new department for women, but so far they do not have any results of it (Karmaliani et al., 2017). In the news, Aziz did not receive any help from government. Her right to be treated equally with her husband was not protected. As a result, the ignorance of government about spousal violence jeopardizes women and damages their physical and mental well-being (Karmaliani et al., 2017).


There is a consistent rate of battered women and the cultural normalization of unequal gender expectations cause stereotypical attitudes and values in Pakistan. Few women are capable of choosing a divorce due to the hardship of living as a divorced woman and taking care of children by themselves. In order to ensure a better life for women and promote their human rights to the same level as men, all politicians should collaboratively work with one another. In addition, education tends to decrease the occurrence of domestic violence because both girls and boys equally receive a basic education. Schools need to teach about gender equality, and health care professionals should be trained for proper counselling, managing the health concerns of women, and preventing abuse against them. Lastly, mass media involvement will be required to help terminate gender discrimination and promote women’s empowerment in society (Ali et al., 2011).


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