“To understand the disproportionate impact of armed conflict and disaster on women and girls…it is necessary to increase their role in peace-building and engender conflict resolution and peace processes,” Shirkat Gah Director Fauzia Viqar said on Wednesday.
She was speaking at a national consultation on Women, Peace and Security in Pakistan organised by Shirkat Gah in collaboration with Bhitai Social Watch and Advocacy and Oxfam Novib Pakistan here at the Ambassador Hotel.
Nighat Saeed Khan of ASR Resource Centre said “During the partition of India, we witnessed the greatest violations as the conflict was communal at that time and the three communities (Sikhs, Hindus and the Muslims) raped and mutilated the women.”
She said, “Some women were killed by their own families…they were given poison so that their ‘honour’ should remain intact.”
She said in 1971, 30 million people were displaced and more than 200,000 were raped and forced into sexual slavery so that they could save their families.
Khan said a large number of women on both sides were victims of landmines.
“Violence against women increased when Ziaul Haq adopted the Wahhabi culture…the Afghan refugees settled in Pakistan had a different culture and tried to convert the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) who had been quite liberal then,” she said Zahir Shah Shirazi, a journalist from KP, said the jihadist mindset was promoted in the late 1970s. He said people were asked to give their daughters in marriage to the Mujahideen.
He said many girls were being sexually harassed at the camps set up by the United Nations including the Jalozai camp but this, he said, was not being reported.
“We have to be very focused about the issues regarding women and all the stakeholders have to be on the same page,” he said.
Abida Swati of the Oxfam Novib, said most women were being harassed by their families or people from the same tribe in the camps. She said there was no rehabilitation policy for these women.
She said that the right to sexual and reproductive health was among the women’s rights that were most commonly violated. “Many are being forced to produce more kids,” she said.
She said in the event of a disaster most of the food supplied went to the men.
Humaira Sheikh of the Shirkat Gah said, “Religious extremism is at its peak….In some areas of the country women are not allowed to vote.”
Fehmida Iqbal of the United Nations Women Pakistan shared the results of a study carried out to determine the condition of the women and girls in crisis and disastrous situations.
She said 81 per cent of the participants in the study thought that the decision making power of women was reduced during a crisis. She said 72 per cent of the participants believed there was no proper mechanism of protection for women in case of violence.
Khawar Mumtaz, the National Commission on the Status of Women chairperson, stressed the need to sensitise government and other stakeholders for delivering rights in a gender sensitive manner; increasing women’s strength in leadership positions in all sectors including security sector (police, military, judiciary); sensitising communities to the importance of girls’ and women’s access to education and; strengthening laws, institutions, mechanisms and procedures for protecting the women’s rights.
The consultation will continue till July 4.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2013.