Data compiled by the Aurat Foundation has revealed that instances of reported violence against women in the province rose by 28 per cent in the first half of 2014 compared to last year’s figures.
The data showed that 3,296 cases of violence against women had been reported in the Punjab in the first six months of the year. 2,575 instances were reported in the first half of 2013. 3,550 women were subjected to violence in the first half of 2014. The monthly breakdown of the statistics stood at 419, 483, 498, 573, 683 and 640 for the first six months in that order. The figure includes 809 abductions, 687 rape cases, 449 murders, 296 suicides, 162 honour killings, 131 suicide attempts, 124 rape attempts, 88 cases of torture, 35 of harassment, 11 incidents of vani, five of karo kari, four instances of child marriages and four of forced marriage.
Leader of Opposition in the Provincial Assembly Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed said the Punjab had become unsafe for women ever since the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had come to power. He said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had raised the issue time and again. He said the data reflected the government’s incompetence. Rasheed said 80 per cent of the crimes against women went unreported.
Rasheed said those in power had completely disregarded service delivery and were only interested in image projection. He said the Punjab had remained the most unsafe province in the country for women for six years.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Women Development Minister Hameeda Waheedud Din rejected Rasheed’s claims. She said the government was committed to empowering women. Din said the introduction of the Women Empowerment Package in 2012 and the passage of the Fair Representation Act in 2014 were some examples of it.
Punjab Commission on the Status of Women chairman Fauzia Viqar welcomed the release of figures. She said these showed that more women were reporting crimes against them. Viqar said the media had played a positive role in highlighting such instances. She said media coverage of such incidents usually led to the arrest of the culprits. Viqar said the chief minister’s practice of taking personal notice of crimes against women had set a healthy precedent. She said the qisas and diyat laws were being reviewed at the request of the Senate Committee on Human Rights. Viqar said the National Commission on the Status of Women and the provincial commission were formulating recommendations regarding it.
She said the commission monitored instances of violence against women to force the state into action. Viqar said the commission was setting up a complaints unit to address the issue.
She said the commission would gather complaints from several mechanisms which include an emergency helpline established by the Women Development Department. Viqar said the helpline provided women with information regarding their rights and connected them with institutions that could help them.
She said it was necessary to change societal attitudes and perceptions. Viqar said it was also necessary to reform law enforcement agencies to ensure that rights of women were protected and their concerns addressed. She said this was inextricably linked with the cases of violence against women. Viqar said reforming the agencies would lead to a reduction in instances of violence against women.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Acid Survivors Foundation chairman Valerie Khan said that noticeable progress had been made on the front over the past decade through the introduction of women-friendly legislation. She emphasised the need to enforce these laws. Khan said the movement seemed to have lost steam after the general elections. She said the government needed to legislate against domestic violence, child marriage and acid attacks.
Aurat Foundation Provincial Monitoring Officer Abid Ali said violence against women could only be checked by ensuring that they were represented at decision making forums. He said it was imperative to integrate them in the political mainstream to ensure that women-friendly legislation was enacted. Ali said crime against women would increase till these measures were taken.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2014.