“There are dozens of undefined crimes in Pakistan that the government needs to legislate about. Domestic violence and violence by state officials are two examples of crimes against which citizens have no legal cover,” Peace and Human Development Foundation director Suneel Malik said on Thursday.
He was addressing participants of a protest rally organised under the White Ribbon Campaign. The rally was titled Time for Action to End Violence Against Women to mark International Women’s Day.
It was organised by the Peace and Human Development Foundation, Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM) and Adara Samaji Behbood (ASB).
Malik said the White Ribbon Campaign aimed at engaging men to pledge allegiance to eradication of violence against women.
“Wearing the white ribbon is a pledge that one must never commit or remain silent about violence against women,” he said.
“Violence against women is a serious violation of their rights. Unfortunately there is a general acceptance of gender-based violence. Many people do not recognise its forms as a crime in Pakistan. It is believed to be an integral part of Pakistani culture,” he said.
He said when state failed to prosecute its perpetrators, it encouraged further abuse.
“Government’s inaction gives the impression that violence against women is acceptable,” he added.
AWAM Director Nazia Sardar said, “The White Ribbon Campaign calls for mobilising people and changing mindsets that hamper a woman’s efficiency at home and work.”
She said violence against women was especially problematic in Pakistan as the monitoring system had loopholes.
“The government should deal with this problem with proper legislation. It should also take steps to devise an effective monitoring system for strict implementation of laws,” she said.
Shazia George, a women’s rights activist, said, “Conservative values and patriarchal social systems are the root cause of domestic violence. Violence in the domestic sphere is objectionable but most women do not speak up against it as it is believed to be a family matter which can be resolved behind closed doors.”
Naseem Anthony, another human rights activist, said, “There exists a dual system of justice in the country. Feudal traditions of jirga, sawara, vani and karo-kari need to be done away with as they strip women of their basic rights.”
He urged the government to ratify and implement the ILO-Convention 189 which protects the rights of working women.
ASB President Irshad Parkash said “There is a need for a reformed system protecting rights of unregistered women workers engaged in informal sectors including home-based workers, peasants and domestic workers. The government must recognize them as part of the labour force.” Khadim Patras, an educationist, said females from minority communities were seen as “soft targets.”
He said such women were abducted, forcibly converted and married without their consent, particularly in Sindh and Balochistan.
The rally was joined by hundreds of people from various communities and different socio-economic backgrounds.
They were wearing white ribbons to express their opposition to violence against women.
They chanted slogans against inhuman and unethical treatment towards women in Pakistan and urged the government to take tangible steps for their protection.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2014.