Violence against women of Pakistan: a case study of the Cholistan desert

Aziz, Samehia (2012) Violence against women of Pakistan: a case study of the Cholistan desert. (PhD thesis), Kingston University,


Women continue to be subjected to violations of their human rights. Violence towards them is a crucial mechanism through which women are subjugated. Gender based violence is a silent global epidemic (UNDP 2011) and its devastating effects cannot be underestimated. This thesis proposes an integrated geographical or place-based approach to understand gender based violence. It offers an enhanced, theoretically more rigorous, 'spatialised' ecological model. The traditional ecological model has been reworked as a multi-dimensional structure, where the layers are (re)conceptualised as simultaneously social and spatial units constructed through and constituted in their connectedness with each other and with elsewhere; with spaces within, through and beyond them. In the new model, the layers are portrayed not as separate from one another, but rather linked together in a single interconnected whole. The ways in which risk factors interconnect with each other and mesh together fashion 'spaces of vulnerability' where violence against women is normalized and legitimated. Cholistan is one such place; a place of intense vulnerability. The 'roots' of gender based violence in Cholistan are deep and entrenched; interconnecting in complex ways to bestow adangerous and devastating legacy on Cholistani women. The thesis adopts a mixed method approach. In total 900 cases of abuse were examined. In addition, 17 interviews were conducted with a variety of key gatekeepers and 25 victim women were interviewed. In total 10 local community leaders were also interviewed in a group forum. The thesis presents evidence of the widespread and persistent abuse of Cholistani women. Violence towards women in Cholistan takes a myriad of forms. some of which are universal, some of which are culturally specific, embedded in the socio-cultural norms and traditions found in this isolated, barren and geographically remote locale. These include factors such as the propensity of exchange marriages, extended family structures, childlessness, son preference, as well as dowry-related issues and poverty; compounded by a lack of functioning state-led judiciary or law enforcement agencies; leaving no avenue of recourse for women These factors interrelate with each other in complex ways and at a variety of scales; to creating a space in Cholistan where violence against women is legitimated, sanctioned and ultimately played out.

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