The Varied Contours of Violence Against Women in South Asia

This paper discusses the situation of VAW in the region of South Asia, employing examples from all of its composite countries (including Pakistan). South Asia continues to have the worst indicators with regard to violence against women in the world. In addition to the common problems of violence against women, South Asia has particular cultural and religious practices that also accentuate the problem of VAW in the region. The general low status of women in the region and the entrenched nature of discriminatory structures have led to what is seen as a lifecycle of VAW. Even before birth women suffer from sex selective abortion, at infancy they may face female infanticide, as young children they will have to put up with incest and son preference, as adolescents they may be sexually abused or trafficked, as young women they may suffer rape, sexual harassment, acid attacks as wives they may experience domestic violence, dowry related violence, marital rape or honour killings, as widows they may be required to self immolate or be deprived of property and dignity. The vulnerability to violence at every stage of the life cycle makes VAW a terrible South Asian legacy that requires concerted regional, national and local level action.

Coomaraswamy, Radhika
Source publication: 
Paper presented at the Fifth South Asia Regional Ministerial Conference, Celebrating Beijing Plus Ten. Government of Pakistan and UNIFEM South Asia Regional Office