Joint efforts stressed for violence-free society

Human right activists, civil society representatives and political party leaders expressed their resolve to work together for a society free of violence against women (VAW) at different events organised to commemorate International Day on Violence against Women and the launch of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.

They called for effective implementation of the existing laws for the prevention of violence against women (VAW) in the society and demanded institutional strengthening of National and Provincial Commission on the Status of Women. Pakistani women and girls continue to face sexual violence including rape, sexual harassment in the workplaces and public spaces, honour crimes, domestic violence, acid violence, dowry violence, early and forced marriages, trafficking for sexual exploitation and other forms of verbal, psychological, emotional and physical and sexual abuse.

Pakistan ranks 82 out of 93 countries in the Gender Empowerment Measure and has a Gender Inequality Index value of 0.573, ranking it 115 out of 146 countries in the 2011 index. The vast majority of these cases go unreported and unacknowledged and survivors are left wounded, invisible and suffering in silence. This situation is intolerable and demands urgent action by leaders.

The UN General Assembly designated November 25, as the international day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in December 1999. Each year the day also kicks off 16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, a world wide effort by a broad range of actors to raise awareness on this grave issue culminating on 10th December, which is the International Human Rights Day.

On this occasion, The Alliance for Ending Violence against Women and Girls (EVAWG) officially launched a signature campaign calling all citizens and sections of the society to join the movement of ‘A Peaceful and Tolerant Pakistan through Ending Violence against Women and Girls’ at a press conference organised on Monday. The petition demands the repeal of discriminatory laws, strengthening of pro-women laws, enactment of new legislation like laws for child protection and against child sexual abuse, domestic violence, incestuous rape, “honour” killings, forced conversions and forced marriages, amongst others.

It also calls for reformation of the laws, rules and procedures governing the criminal justice system, law enforcement agencies, police investigation and prosecution, medico-legal examination, forensic testing, and witness protection. It urges the government to ensure girls’ and women’s access to justice and transparency and uniformity in law implementation, as well as effective supervision and monitoring of the LEAs and other branches of the system.

It asks the government to ensure gender based survivors rights to privacy, respect, dignity, psycho-social trauma counselling, reproductive health care, medical, surgical services and allocation of provincial budgetary resources for ending GBV and EVAWG.

The statement also demands elimination of unconstitutional, illegal, unjust, traditional ‘adjudication’ councils, known as ‘jirgas’ and ‘punchayats’, which are anti-women and girls; and repeal the ‘Qisas and Diyyat’ law, resulting in impunity, through waiver and compromise (e.g. ‘honour’ killings). It also calls the government to ensure the availability of, and access to, emergency shelters and crisis centres for girls and women survivors of GBV.

The signature campaign will culminate on the International Day of Women on March 8, 2014. The target is to get it statement signed by 500,000 people by March 8, 2014 on the occasion of International Women’s Day. Speaking on this occasion, MNA and General Secretary Women Parliamentary Caucus (WPC) Nuzhat Sadiq emphasised the need to pass the pending legislations on domestic violence, acid crime and home based workers. She stressed for collaboration of the citizens with the government.

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