Violence against women: ‘Through the gender lens’

Handbook aims to spread awareness about gender-based violence, neglect of media and state.

Sehrish Wasif December 11, 2010

ISLAMABAD: To motivate the youth, develop a gender-sensitive media and highlight issues of violence against women, a handbook was launched on Friday.

Uks Research, Resource and Publication Centre on Women and Media in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) unveiled ‘Through the Gender Lens’ to mark the Human Rights Day.

The launching ceremony was attended by human rights’ activists, senior journalists and students from various educational institutions. Sherry Rehman, former federal minister for Information and Broadcasting, Tasneem Ahmar, director UKs Research Center and IA Rehman, human rights’ activist were present at the occasion.

The handbook is the conclusion of a one-year-long project on ‘Gender Advocacy’ through media and involvement of the Pakistani youth, which started in January 2010.

Under this project, a total of 39 youth members including from across the country were selected.

Later these individuals were trained on media monitoring, reviewing media content on Gender Based Violence, and constructing and deconstructing messages pertaining to such cases.

The handbook mentions that those who could be the real harbinger of change, the youth, are bombarded with images of women as objects of pleasure or pity, powerless and dependent. These persuasive images can lead the youth into negative behaviours, but there are no solutions being offered on how to improve upon them.

According to the handbook, in Pakistan men make personal and economic decisions, while women are merely treated as property to be traded, ‘as vessels of family, as an object of sexual desire instead of human beings with free will.’

It is further explained that due to such a societal setup, this gender-based violence is often misunderstood or underestimated, resulting in under-reporting.

According to World Population Foundation’s Gender-Based Violence and Reproductive Health facts, every second Pakistani woman becomes a victim of violence. The situation is deteriorating further in the country, with recent estimates showing that the same rate has gone up to 70-90 per cent. As a consequence, this violence is responsible for 0.9 per cent of deaths in women aged 20-49 years in Pakistan.

Dissatisfied of the coverage accorded to the issue by the media, Tasneem Ahmar said that ‘effort’ would highlight the gravity of the issue.

“The handbook showcases the passion of our talented youth to counter the negative impact of existing media content,” she said.

Ahmar said that they aimed to continue to motivate and inspire youth through a transformative learning process, so that they can get broad understanding of gender issues.

Addressing the participants, IA Rehman said, “In Pakistan it is the psyche of our people to do violence against women. However, during Zia’s regime the situation worsened when every man considered it as his prime right to beat up women.”

“However, considering the current situation of the country it seems that there would be an increase in the cases of violence against women,” he added.

Rehman further said even our youth is involved in various types of violence against women but they are not aware of it.Urging the women to stand up for their rights, he said, “Most of the women do not consider violence as violence and accept it as routine. They should unite and raise their voice to get the position in the society.”

Furthermore, Sherry Rehman said, “Pakistan has the largest youth bulge but these ‘change-agents’ are being neglected and ignored.”

Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2010.


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