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Home-based workers—victims of GBV

Kashif Shamim Siddiqui

In the patriarchal structures of our society, violence against women is considered a normal practice. No matter what working status a woman enjoys, she is seen in a subordinate role.

Both men and women can be victims of violence; however, women are more vulnerable due their positions within the home, at the workplace and in society. Violence can be physical, sexual, economic and mental in nature. Over the years, patriarchy has become deep rooted and has created a mindset that strongly sees women as a threat to male dominance.

In Pakistan, domestic violence is considered a private matter, as it occurs in the family. Spousal abuse is rarely considered a crime socially unless it takes an extreme form of murder or attempted murder. Various forms of domestic violence include physical, mental and emotional abuse.

According to an estimate, approximately 70 to 90 percent of Pakistani women are subjected to domestic violence. Almost one in three married Pakistani women report facing physical violence from their husbands. Only 22 percent of women are formally reported to participate in the Pakistani workforce.

There are presently 12 million Home-Based Workers (HBWs) in Pakistan and 80 percent of them are women and their number is growing with each passing day. Due to the lack of health and safety measures, these workers face accidents and suffer from different diseases. Despite all of their hardships, these home-based workers are not even considered as workers under any labour laws, which is why they are deprived of all facilities and perks provided under these laws.

Merely 27-years-old, Sultana is a true example of gender based violence. Sultana was married at a tender age without her will. Carrying orthodox mentality of early child marriage, her mother forced her into an arranged marriage.

Her in-laws detested her presence and to them, she was a maid for their house. When Sultana gave birth to her first child, a daughter, she was verbally abused by the in-laws as a bearer of daughters. The behaviour of her in-laws worsened upon the birth of her second daughter. She tolerated the abuse for the sake of her family and to protect their honour as a divorce is associated with stigma for a woman.

Having dexterity in stitching and stone work Sultana started as a home based worker to earn for her children. She was introduced to HomeNet Pakistan (HNP) by HNP’s social mobiliser. HomeNet Pakistan strives to empower HBWs to realise their economic, political and social rights through the strengthening of their respective organisations and the adoption of fair trade practices, resulting in the improvement of their working and living conditions.

She attended the awareness sessions of HNP that included, awareness on HBWs law, study circle on early child marriage, violence against women and exposure visits to the market and women development department. The exposure visits acquainted her with the knowledge of various products and their worth in the market, as well as knowledge of women’s rights.

95 percent of women home-based workers are unaware of their rights as a women and thus end up becoming an easy victim of gender discrimination. Sultana believes she is much better off now and she will not sacrifice her peace for any further gender based violence.