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December 6, 2018

‘Violence against women barrier to their safety, capacity to earn’


December 6, 2018

Islamabad : Different kinds of violence against women are barrier to women’s safety, security, and mobility and capacity to earn and fulfil their own aspirations.

This was stated by Chairperson National Commission on the Status of Women Khawar Mumtaz in an interview with ‘The News’ in connection with 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence commemorated around the world from November 25 to December 10.

She said that women remain unable to realise their potential due to different forms of Gender Based Violence (GBV), be it physical, mental or economical. “It is important to realize connection between GBV and women’ abilities, as we have seen that wherever women are given opportunity and the right environment, they were able to outperform men.”

She said that “16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence” is an annual event where you highlight the issue of violence against women (VAW) and make commitments to eliminate it. “The Commission priority area is VAW and its complete elimination but from commissions point of view, it is an on-going issue that continues for us throughout the year.”

Khawar said that Pakistan has a good number of laws on protection and prevention of VAW but unfortunately, these laws fail to have an impact on the rate of incidents of violence against women. “We continue to see that despite having a law on anti-women practices, customary practices continue. Only a few days ago, we heard of a Jirga who punished women of a family. Jirga and Panchayat’s continue to give punishing judgments for women to punish a family even if women are not involved in the dispute.”

She stressed on creating awareness on laws among citizens, law enforcement agencies and judiciary and strengthening of support mechanisms. “We feel the need to mobilize citizens for effective implementation but the question is whether they are aware of the laws that protect them? Do the institutions that are supposed to provide protection and implementation of law are aware that the laws and how to apply them and finally, the judiciary, especially at the lower level, are aware of the amendments taking place in the laws, extent of their applications?”

Highlighting the issues linked with competency of support mechanisms, she said that there are many support institutions but nobody demands or expects action and competency from them. These institutions are not fully equipped with financial and human resources. Unless we look at all these things together, we will not be able to make women feel secure and safe and stop those who victimize them of commit violence against them.”

Talking about the extent of GBV in Pakistan, she said that we don’t have full picture of the extent of GBV in our society because we have not been able to establish the baseline. “The commission is very keen and has within its plan has the objective of making a baseline on the incidents of violence. The commission has already developed indicators suitable for Pakistan and on the basis of those indicators, the Commission wants to go for a national survey which can identify nature, kind and extent and geographical location of different kinds of violence against women. Its only when we have that picture in front of us, then we can design interventions and make sure those particular kind of violence is addressed in those locations. We cannot have one solution fit all.”

She said that NCSW is in the process of developing proposal for the national survey. “We want to make it something which we can follow up after every 5 to 10 years. We hope that by the next summer, it will be in the field.”

The other thing that we want is to create awareness on all kinds of support services that exist in the country. “You will be surprised to know that within Sindh only, there are over 30 support mechanisms, but they don’t perform. For them to be operationalized, people have to demand services from the mechanisms set up with the tax payers’ money.” She said NCSW plans to introduce an App to identify support mechanisms that’s exists in the country.

About domestic violence, she said in Pakistan about 39 per cent ever married women were subjected to physical violence. “Finally, we think that it is extremely important to have inter-agency cooperation for addressing VAW. By this, we mean cooperation between police, shelters and support centres and legal aid.”

She urged the government to build upon the existing mechanisms instead of investing on building new ones. “There is a lot of foundational work across the country. We have to build upon that and where they are some weakness, those should be addressed but it has taken a long time and resources to establish these support systems. These should not be abolished.”

She said that VAW centre in Multan is good model where women are provided help under one roof from filing of FIR to rehabilitation of violence survivors. “It has benefitted a large number of women since March 2017. Unfortunately, we are hearing that its staff has not been paid since four five months. We actually need more such facilities.” Khawar also stressed to establish monitoring mechanism for existing support mechanisms for VAW survivors. “The Commission followed the implementation of Acid Crime after the law was amended. We found decline of 50 per cent in the incidents of acid crime.”

She called upon all organisations, government, parliamentarians, network, civil society, support and law enforcement institutions to work to their optimal level to move towards zero violence against women and girls.