Wednesday March 22, 2023

‘Pakistan yet to make justice system responsive to women’

By our correspondents
March 08, 2017

Around 9,000 women and children received help through Madadgaar in 2016

The justice system in the country is not responsive, and there is no question of legal aid and the legal aid available is so expensive that it is out of the reach of the common man.

This was stated by advocate Zia Awan, who heads Helpline Madadgaar, while addressing a press conference at the “Helpline Data Launch on Violence Against Women and Children” for the year 2016 at his office on Tuesday, on the eve of International Women’s Day.

He said the data collated in the report had been collected since 2001, for the last 17 years. He said they received accounts of very cruel cases, and one of the reasons for this was that the justice system in the country was not responsive.

“Social justice in our set-up is very weak,” Awan said, regretting that there was no investment in social justice. He said a Child Protection Authority had been set up six years ago, but to date no mechanism had been put in place to make it functional.

Sharing the date, he said 8,897 women and children who had come forward and fought for their rights and protection got due help from Helpline Madadgaar in 2016.

During 2016, the Madadgaar National Helpline 1098 helped 8,897 people who called by phone or visited the offices of the organisation. Of them, 6,294 were women and girls ranging in age from 5 to 75 and the rest included youths and boys.

A colleague of Awan’s, who was sitting beside him, said that there had been 162 cases of cybercrime, five cases of child/woman trafficking, 2,000 missing children and 2,000 child marriages between January and December 2016.

Awan said that according to the prognosis of the World Economic Forum (WEF), it would take another 169 years to close the gender gap at the current pace. This, he said, was not acceptable and there was need to close the gap today.

He noted the National Madadgaar Helpline was now Pakistan’s first 24/7 helpline and the team had been working round the clock since July 2016 to help women and girl survivors of violence and abuse. He said most cases were reported from Sindh (7,561) and the least from Balochistan (306). There were 501 from Punjab and 529 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Commenting on this difference, he said that unrest, target killings of the legal fraternity, weak law enforcement, absence of rule of law and protection services, and the overall cultural, social and religious barriers stopped people, especially girls and women, from coming forward and reporting the violence perpetrated against them.

Awan said there was not only a need for the government to make better laws but also to devise an iron-jacketed mechanism for their implementation.

For this, he said, capacities of the relevant public institutions would have to be built. Only the government, he said, had the means and resources to do so.