Cases of gender-based violence are increasing in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal belt, said participants at a seminar organised by the ‘End Violence Against Women and Girls’ alliance on Thursday.
Activists said the provincial government should appoint an ombudsperson to redress women’s complaints against harassment and discrimination at the workplace, as required by the anti-sexual harassment law. The appointment was first suggested in the Sexual Harassment Bill 2010.
During the inauguration ceremony of the ‘memorial in the memory of victims of sexual and gender-based violence’, activists of various non-government organisations expressed concern over the increasing number of such cases in the province and the tribal areas.
Statistics indicate that in 2010 around 7,000 cases regarding gender-based violence were reported across the country, while in 2011 the number had risen to approximately 8,500.
However, MPA Tabassum Younis Katozai noted a positive aspect to the higher number of cases. She said violence has not increased, but women have become more aware of their rights and are more courageous to report sexual harassment.
She said that earlier women were reluctant to report such abuses, but now with increasing public awareness through the media and non-governmental organisations, people are more vocal about these injustices.
At the occasion, Aurat Foundation Director Rakhshanda Naz expressed concerns over the lack of awareness among the public about laws that protect women. She also emphasised the need to constitute more comprehensive laws to protect women’s rights and punish those involved in such crimes.
Honour killings, acid throwing, forced marriages and abduction were said to be the most reccurring incidents. Social activists demanded that the government declare October 18 as a day against gender-based violence and sexual abuse.
Expressing concern over violence, rights activist Idrees Kamal regretted the fact that the first case of acid throwing had been reported from the tribal areas in which schoolgirls were targeted. Last week, unidentified militants threw acid on female students in Kurram Agency, who were heading home from Kohat to Parachinar.
Participants urged ulema (clerics) and the media to highlight the importance of women in the progress and development of society. Furthermore, they asked the government to provide legal protection to victims and abolish quota systems for women in government institutions. They stressed that equal opportunities must be given to all, regardless of gender.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 19th, 2012.