Sunday, January 13, 2013

Civil society jointly takes out rally against gender based violence in Pakistan

Legislation against domestic violence, and violence perpetuated by the state machinery and its officials must be passed to make these acts punishable offence; this was demanded by the hundreds of participants of a rally entitled ‘Protect Women against Violence’ to mark international day for the elimination of all forms of violence against women, held at Faisalabad on 28th November 2012. The Member of the National Assembly (MNA) of Pakistan, Mrs. Khalida Mansoor led the rally, staged by the Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM) and Peace and Human Development (PHD Foundation) in collaboration with CARE Foundation, Aitbar Foundation, ARADA Network, LEHR Network and RASTA Network.

Speaking on this occasion, the executive secretary of the AWAM, Naseem Anthony said, “Violence is a serious violation of human rights, but regrettably there is a general and widespread acceptance of violence based on gender diversity in the society, therefore the majority of people do not recognize its many forms as crime in Pakistan, but rather consider it an integral part of the culture and the fate of women.” “The conservative value system, poverty, women's dependence on men, and religious extremism are the root causes behind all forms of violence against women. It is a fact that male member of a family whether he is a father, husband or brother, usually have power over movements and behaviour of female members, therefore problem arising from the culture and local traditions must be demolished by laws and a change of mentality,” he added.

The director of the PHD Foundation, Suneel Malik said, “It is sad that the forces responsible for protecting citizens are also sometimes found involved in gender based violence in the jails and shelter homes, therefore the government must pass a legislation banning violence perpetrated or condoned by the state machinery.” “When the state fails to prosecute the perpetrators without hesitation, this not only encourages further abuse, it also give the message that male violence against females is acceptable or normal. The result of such impunity is not only denial of justice to the individual victims, but also reinforcement of prevailing inequalities that affect other women and girls as well,” he added.

The coordinator of the AWAM, Shazia George said, “The forced sterilization of the women with disabilities is horrendous act, which cause their reproductive inability. The violence in the domestic sphere is also objectionable, therefore, govt. must approve legislation protecting women against domestic violence.” “It is their prime responsibility to stand up and say no to all forms of violence against their fellow women. Together these voices will turn into a force that would be hard to ignore or sideline,” she added.

The director of the AWAM, Nazia Sardar said, “Violence against women also takes place in developed countries. However it is more problematic in Pakistan, as there is there is no system to address this issue in an effective manner. Working to end violence against women requires not only a clear demonstration of political commitment, but also systematic and sustained action, backed by strong, dedicated and permanent institutional mechanisms.” “Though the government of Pakistan has set up crises centers to protect women victims of violence, but it is pity that the funds are not being released for crises centers to stay functional,” she added.

The head of the Aitbar Foundation, Nasreen Bukhari said, “The passage of pro-women legislation is not enough to protect women. The most important action towards safeguarding human rights of women is the substantive measures and strict enforcement of laws towards the increasing trend of violence against women in the society.”

The convener of the ARADA advocacy Network, Mehwish Anam stressed the need for collective and rigorous efforts by the media, educators, religious leaders and families to help create a society alienated from gender based discrimination and violence, and emphasized on the need of more cohesive and strategic approach on the part of the government and civil society to tackle to menace of violence against women.”

The participants of the rally strongly condemned the inhuman and unethical treatment towards women witnessed in Pakistan on a daily basis, and urged the govt. to take tangible steps for the protection of women’s rights. They chanted slogans in support and recognition of women’s rights and in opposition to gender based violence, intolerance and discrimination. They were also holding placards and banners criticizing various forms of physical, sexual, emotional and economic violence in the family, community, and violence perpetrated or condoned by the state including; laws and customary practices against women, sexual harassment, the jirga system, murder, rape, forced abortion, women trafficking, forced prostitution, honour killing, forced conversion, forced marriages, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, genital mutilation, beating, stove-burning and acid attacks, limiting them to home boundary and depriving from their right to live a life on their own with their free will.

The rally was joined by over 300 people from different walks of life including students, lawyers, representatives of trade unions, political parties and civil society organizations namely; HEDO, ASB, Maimar, PACE, ASWO, AIM, PATAN, EDEN, IWF, NCJP, Labour Qaumi Movement, Freedom Bhatta Workers Union and Awami Workers Party. Naseem Anthony, Suneel Malik, Nazia Sardar, Shazia George, Amina Zaman, Nasreen Bukhari, Yousaf Adnan, Dr. Gul Pervaiz Akhtar Ghouri, Mehwish Anam, Asghar Shaheen, Farrukh Awan, Irshad Parkash, Babar Surroya, Farooq Ayub, Dr. Shafiq, Shahid Anwar, Shafiq Sharif and Mian Naveed were among the prominent figures, present at the rally.