FAISALABAD: The whole of humanity stands to benefit from women’s empowerment, Nasreen Bukhari, a women’s rights activist, said at a rally organised in connection with the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women on Wednesday. She said the federal government must implement the Sindh High Court’s 2004 decision against jirgas. “Pakistan will continue to be unsafe for women if the government doesn’t take this step.”
Scores of civil society activists participated in the demonstration themed No To Violence, No More Silence. It was organised by the Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM) and the Peace and Human Development (PHD) Foundation in collaboration with the Peace for Nation International (PNI), the Lyallpur Development Organisation (LDO), the Adara Samaji Behbood (ASB), South Asia Partnership’s AAWAZ programme, the Pakistan Gender Coalition (PGC) and the Lady Health Workers’ Association.
The participants of the rally carried placards and flexes condemning gender-based violence. They walked up to the city district government complex where they held a demonstration.
Participants of the rally demanded that the government pass the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Bill 2015 to build an effective protection system for the rescue, protection, shelter and rehabilitation of women victims of violence.
They demanded that the government take substantive measures to devise an efficient monitoring mechanism to check implementation of the anti-harassment law and hold perpetrators of harassment accountable in order to ensure a safe working space for women.
Speaking on the occasion, AWAM Programme Director Naseem Anthony said the Constitution guaranteed women equal rights and status in opposition to some customs and social norms.
“Articles 25, 34 and 35 of the Constitution protect the rights of women in Pakistan however the state remains a silent spectator when women are brutally murdered on the pretext of honour.”
Peace and Human Development Foundation Director Suneel Malik said, “The HeForShe Campaign aims to engage men and boys as advocates and agents of change for gender equality.”
He said it was necessary to create an enabling environment to encourage and facilitate women in playing an effective role in the society.
Advocate Hashmat Barkat said the state must play an active role in implementing laws to ensure that women in Pakistan are able to lead dignified lives.
Activist Suraiya Waseem said most sexual offences go unreported, a few of those that are reported result in prosecution, and even fewer in convictions.
She said the government must hold perpetrators of sexual harassment accountable for their actions to set precedent that such behaviour is not acceptable behaviour at the workplace.
Irshad Parkash, one of the speakers, said incidents of violence against women have been on the increase primarily because the existing legal system does not effectively address the menace.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2015.