Gender-based violence is the most wide-spread and socially tolerated of human rights violations (United Nations Population Fund, 2005). lt compromises the health of women and serves as a barrier to the full participation and capacity development of women throughout the world (United Nations Development Program, 2003, UNDP, 2006, wHo, 2005, United Nations Population Fund, 2000). Abuse of rights and violence against women and girls is widespread in Pakistan (Amnesty lnternational, 2002, Jilani and Ahmed, 2004). Gender violence in Pakistan takes a variety of forms, some of which are similar to the West, and others more specific to the culture (Hassan, 1995, Jilani and Ahmed, 2004, Amnesty lnternational, 1999, 2002).
The paucity of legal remedies, few safe houses and mediation mechanisms to intercede creates an overwhelming situation for women. Western images of Pakistani women usually represent them as submissive and oppressed and their freedom and power of action are overlooked (Mohanty,2004). Counter to these images, women are responding to and resisting conditions of violence. This paper is based upon in-depth interviews with women residing in a private shelter for women in Lahore, Pakistan. Firsthand accounts of the events and processes leading women to take action against violence by seeking shelter for women are presented as well as the particular challenges and obstacles that women in Pakistan encounter within their legal, social, cultural context. The study gives voice to a group of women who are frequently marginalized and silenced, providing an opportunity to learn about the strengths and agency of women who escape from, resist and organize against violence.