PAKISTAN: Emotional abuse of girl child is not an exception 

It is hard to detect and substantiate emotional abuse of female child because of many reasons, including a clear lack of an accepted and consistent definition and least importance of the subject matter in feudal and patriarchal societies.  It is widely recognized that verbal abuse of girl child is much prevalent and occurs in a range of relationships and social settings, all around the world.  However, the intensity of such phenomenon is much higher in poor and developing countries, such as Pakistan.

Farhana Rasheed, a women rights activist, observed that, “It is really difficult to quantify or determine the prevalence of the emotional abuse of girl child in our society as very rarely girls report such cases.  A major reason of lack of reporting is the involvement of family members in committing emotional abuse”.  The women rights activist further remarked, “In many poor and developing countries, including Pakistan, people in general congratulate the parents, if the newly born baby is a boy;   however, the birth of a baby girl has never been considered as an occasion of pleasure or distribution of food or sweets among relatives, friends and colleagues’’.  Farhana Rasheed further said that a son means high dividend in future for present investment; while the girl is just a big responsibility and expense.

Advocate Ashraf Suleman informed that healthy emotional development is also as much important for children as healthy physical development.  He added that UN Convention on the Rights of the Child under Article 19 stated the following:

1. States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.

2. Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child, as well as for other forms of prevention and for identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment described heretofore, and, as appropriate, for judicial involvement.

Amber Naseer, a psychologist, informed that emotional abuse essentially is based on power and control. She informed that neglect, rejection, humiliation and degradation are the most recognized forms of emotional abuse.  The Karachi based psychologist observed that a number of girls, who visited her clinic, informed that their parents give more importance to their brothers and they really feel inferior in the family.  Amber Naseer further added that irrespective of their social or economic background; young girls are very sensitive about their status and identity in the family.

Haseena is a sixteen year old girl, living with her parents and three brothers in a densely populated squatter settlement in Karachi.  She has been working as a domestic servant for last six years and the job requires her to work from 9.00 in the morning till 4.00 in the evening.  Haseena said, “Since my childhood, I have great interest in getting education; however, my parents decided that my brothers are only entitled to get education.  I love my brothers and really wanted them to become educated and successful in life but I believe that my parents should treat their children, boys and girls, equally and I should also have the chance to get proper education.”

Kashif Farooqui, a gender expert, observed that a large number of poor families in Pakistan consider their daughters as a heavy burden and therefore such thinking has resulted in the neglect of young girls.  He further remarked not only education but girls child also face neglect and discrimination in getting proper and life-giving nutrition during their childhood.  The gender expert also referred many surveys and researches that clearly explain that as compare to boys, girls receive less quality food, education and healthcare.  Kashif Farooqui added that neglect is an obvious form of emotional abuse and such abuse is very much common in poor and developing countries, including Pakistan.

Kashif Farooqui informed that a seminar, organized by Devolution Trust for Community Empowerment (DTCE), on “Gender Based Violence” was held in Islamabad, in February 2012.  He added that during the seminar speakers identified different forms of gender based violence in Pakistan including traditional practices harmful to women, such as honor killing, burning or acid throwing, domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, sexual harassment, stove burning, trafficking of women and girls and emotional abuse such as bullying and abusive language.

Masooma is twelve and she studies in sixth grade in a local private school.  Masooma’s father works in a private company while her mother is a school teacher.  The young girl has two brothers and two sisters.  “My brothers are studying in one of the best schools in Karachi while I and my both sisters are studying in an ordinary private school, located in our neighborhood.   Once, I had complained the low quality of education in my school; however, my mother clearly told that quality education is very expensive and only my brothers are entitled to get such expensive education because in future they will support the family.  It was really very shocking for me because I thought that all siblings are equal in front of parents.”

Amber is also sixteen year old and she belongs to a very established family.  She lives with her three brothers in a posh locality in Karachi.  Amber informed that, “I am studying in one of the best schools of Karachi and enjoying a comfortable life in my parents’ house.  However, the attitude of my brothers, two are younger and one is elder, is really awful.  They always use very abusive language and try to degrade, insult and ridicule me, especially in front of other relatives.  I have discussed the problem with my other friends but most of them also face the same problem, which is certainly not a good sign for the development of young girls, like I.”

Rukhsana, a fourteen year old girl, lives in a large family of twelve people in a lower middle class locality.  She used to attend the school but after class V, the family didn’t allow her to continue the education.  She informed that, “After leaving the school, I work almost ten to fourteen hours daily in my house.  I am responsible to do all domestic chores, including cooking, washing dishes and clothes and cleaning the small house.  Additionally, I also have to take care of my little nephews and nieces.  Despite such tough daily routine, my father and elder brothers criticize and humiliate me without any reasons.  They always taunt me about my weight and give me funny names such as ‘tank’ or ‘double decker bus’.”  The dejected girl concluded that if she has the chance, she will certainly leave the house and family.

Maleeha Qureshi, a sociologist and staff member of an NGO, observed that emotional abuse of girl child is a serious problem, which is increasing in upward direction.  She added that emotional abuse of children can cause serious problems, such as depression, isolation, lack of attachment with the family members, school dropout or low educational achievement and lack of socialization.  Maleeha Qureshi added that girls’ ‘transitory status’ in parents house is a major cause of the prevailing neglect in South Asian societies and added that, “it is really unfortunate that many parents consider their daughters as ‘other people’s property’, and therefore, they don’t want to spend much on their development and education.”

There is no denying that emotional abuse of girl child is a routine rather than exception in the society.  As discussed emotional abuse comes in many forms and not much information is available about the prevalence and different aspects of the issue; therefore, more structured and comprehensive researchers are required to understand the issue in totality.  Furthermore, NGOs and media should create awareness about adverse affects of emotional on girl child.


About the author: Amir Murtaza is regular contributor of AHRC, he can be reached at

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-039-2012
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Child rights,