Crime behind closed doors

It happened one summer evening last year in a small flat in Moscow. In this two bedrooms flat, lived a family, a father and his 3 teenage daughters. One would have expected it to be a lively house but it was the house of crimes. That evening, their father asked them to clean the house and when he got back home it was untidy according to him. He started beating his daughters, he took out a can of pepper spray and sprayed their faces with it. Not only this, abuse, violence and fights were the part of their routine. Their mother left the household a few years earlier, she said she was regularly beaten by her husband. He also used to harass his own daughters.

Then came an evening when the daughters thought that they have had enough. They waited until their father was asleep, they attacked him with a hammer and a hunting knife. The girls said, their father tried to fight them back but they overpowered him and within minutes he was dead.

Days after his death, they were arrested and since then their lawyers have tried to make a case for them, pointing out a long history of abuse and whatever the sisters faced throughout at the hands of their father. Supporters have also created an online petition and advocates of violence have been saying that girls shouldn’t be held responsible for the killing.

Moscow is far away, but the complexities of the situation are not unimaginable in Pakistan. An incident happened in Pakpattan this Ramzan, Gulzar Ahmed allegedly shot his daughter because she didn’t wake him up for Sehri. A brother killed his sister because of some argument. These incidents are so common now that they do not get any mention and are similarly forgotten.

Anyway, the girls refused to be killed, they decided they could not bear it anymore and thought there’s no other option. When interviewed after the incident, they were nervous and anxious and did not even seem to understand what had happened in the short time span of that day.

No one knows what takes place behind closed doors. In Pakistan, the impermeable nature of these closed doors permits all sorts of cruelties to be enacted on women and girls. Arguments with bosses, bad traffic, a messy living room, less than perfect rotis can all be diverted into rage against women at home. It is an act without consequence – the perpetrator’s complete control over the life of a victim making it a crime without punishment.

Advocates for domestic violence victims and human rights activists around the world, who have expressed support and collected signatures, have not been able to secure their freedom. Their situation poses an open question that everyone who wants such violence to cease must ask and answer – what must be done about these crimes behind closed doors, and how culpable is a victim who feels that there is no choice but to fight or die?