Killed For Having An Affair: The Complexities Of Matrimonial Violence

Killed For Having An Affair: The Complexities Of Matrimonial Violence
Like ‘honour’ killing and sexual violence, domestic and matrimonial violence also emanate from male and female relationship but they are more related with the behavioral or emotional aspects of the human psyche than the sexual attraction of male and female.

Matrimonial violence is a crime that is largely committed in circumstances when a marriage proposal is refused by a girl or her family, indulgence of a husband into a second or third marital relationship, or a refusal by an estranged wife to go back to her husband’s home. As opposed to matrimonial violence, domestic violence occurs among the married couples or within a family.

Both of these crimes are very common in India and Pakistan but the data maintenance of these crimes is either missing or recorded in a form that doesn’t fit well with the nature of these crimes.  In case of Pakistan, no data against these crimes is available on Punjab and Sindh police websites. The Indian website on crimes shows 110,378 cases of cruelty by husband or his relatives that were reported during the year 2016. This identification of crime is very vague and biased too; vague in a sense that it provides numbers of victims but doesn’t identify whether the numbers are of the fatalities or injuries. It leads one to make an assumption that all victims had survived from this crime. The reason the data looks biased is that it pre-determines perpetrator as a husband or his relatives. It’s true that most of the domestic-violence crimes are committed by husbands or their relatives but there some exceptions too.

On 13 November 2018, a man murdered his three daughters by hitting them on their heads with a hammer and setting them afire in Veer village of Lalitpur district, India because he was upset over his wife’s stay at her parents’ place.

On 23 August 2019, a 36-year-old man, Sunil Kadam, was stabbed to death by his wife in Nallasopara of Mumbai. The couple had a fight around 5am. Afterwards, Kadam went to sleep and Pranali went to the kitchen, under the pretext of getting herself a glass of water. She returned to the couple’s bedroom with a knife and stabbed Kadam 11 times in the stomach and slit his throat.  Pranali claimed to have committed this crime because Kadam was having an extramarital affair.  

In these cases of domestic disputes, the crime was committed by woman and man though the motivations behind them were in one case a suspected husband and in another one an unhappy wife whose refusal to go back home led the husband to kill his own daughters.

In Pakistan too, there were some incidences of domestic violence where the perpetrators were other than the husband or his relatives.

Two sisters stated to be students of 1st year and 2nd year killed their father for taunting over domestic disputes in Kallar Kahar of district Chakwal. A man allegedly killed his two siblings by slitting their throats and injured two others as well as his mother over strained relations with his family in Mohalla Ahmednagar of Chichawatni.

In Lodhran, a wife’s relatives (and not a husband’s relatives) injured the husband severely in an acid attack for marrying a second time against the wishes of his first wife. Gulnaz allegedly murdered her husband Ajmal, sons Fahad and Abdullah and daughters Ayesha and Asma with a hatchet at their Riaz Town residence because of their poor financial condition.

All these reports prove that the domestic and matrimonial issues not only enraged male members of the family to commit violence, but women were also involved in such a crime though their numbers are very few. In 2018, these two crimes inflicted the second highest number of casualties after 'honour' killings in Pakistan (115 persons dead and 54 injured) based on the data this writer has collected from the local press.

The Punjab province recorded the highest number of victims of these crimes leaving 65 dead and 47 injured, followed by Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (30 and 2), Sindh (12 and 2), and Islamabad (5 and 2). FATA and Balochistan regions that are heavily affected by terrorism were found least affected of this violence as there were only 3 and 2 fatalities respectively.

These incidents of domestic and matrimonial violence were result of marriage disputes, poverty issue, multiple wives, having no children, and disrespect of parents-in-laws. To vent out frustrations and anger created by these circumstances, people resorted to all kinds of horrifying methods that they found accessible. As many as 34 persons were subjected to acid attacks and majority of them were females or children with a few exceptions of male victims. There were nine incidents of setting people on fire due to these crimes leaving three dead and six severely injured. Seven of the victims were women and two were men.

In one incident, a newly wedded second wife and her two brothers-in-law were suspected of having their hands in burning her husband alive in Bilal Colony, Karachi. Another incident took place in the capital of the country, Islamabad where a newly wedded second wife was allegedly doused in kerosene and set on fire by her husband and his family at a house in Ghori Town. Third incident was in Lahore district where a husband allegedly doused his wife with petrol and set her ablaze with support of his family members.

Some of these crimes were committed on as trivial issues as the wife was late in opening the door, having no children, and wife seeking divorce. More than 75% of the victims of this crime were females (including adults, minors, and infants) and the remaining were male victims. 

The above data reflects a partial picture of the violence that is committed because of domestic and matrimonial issues in the country.  An annual report on violence against women issued by the Aurat Foundation shows that 989 persons were killed in Pakistan during 2012 because of domestic violence.  A report from Human Rights Watch reveals that at least 180 cases of domestic violence were recorded in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in 2017, including 94 women murdered by close family members. Non-availability of a reliable data on these crimes leaves no option for analysts to depend on whatever information they can manage to access.

In India, domestic and matrimonial violence are very common and according to ActionAid, India, 70% of women is at some point were victims of domestic violence. Four incidents of domestic violence that became main leads of the Indian press in 2018 revealed that two infants, three minors, and one wife were the victims of this crime in India that were committed by two fathers, one mother, and a husband. A woman died of suffocation when her husband glued her eyes, nose, and taped her mouth in Madhya Pradesh while a mother in Mumbai consumed rat-poison herself and fed the same poison to her son because of a fight with her husband on money matters. A man killed his 4-year-old daughter as wife took too long to cook mutton in Bihar. In Uttar Pradesh, a man killed his 3 minor daughters by hitting them on their heads with a hammer and later setting them on fire in Veer village of Lalitpur district because he was upset over his wife’s stay at her parents’ house.

Occurrences of social crimes, in most cases, are found to have their roots in the local culture and tradition that quite often permit people to commit crimes that are legally forbidden. A survey carried out in India showed that 54.8% of the middle-aged women were supportive of domestic violence while the teenage girls were in agreement of violence by husbands. Surprisingly, no major difference was found in the opinions of women belonging to rural or urban areas. In Pakistan, a legislative bill on Domestic Violence against Women has been going through one hurdle after another in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa assembly since 2014. One of the reasons was the disagreement of religious parties on many clauses of the bill they considered to be un-Islamic. What it shows is that as long as the prevailing socio-cultural values remain unchanged, the sufferings of the Indo-Pak women will continue multiplying.


The author is a freelance journalist and researcher. He is affiliated with the Center for Research and Security Studies as Senior Research Fellow. Earlier, he worked for a multi-national company GE Aviation, USA in Karachi for nearly three decades.