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December 8, 2018

‘Denial of opportunities also gender-based violence’

Karachi

December 8, 2018

Rights activists have urged for the need to look at gender-based violence (GBV) through the lens of prevailing mindsets, than just simply enacting laws, to bring about meaningful change in society.

This was discussed at a session held at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Karachi office on Friday as part of ongoing events regarding the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence against Women.

Abdul Hayyi moderated the discussion while Madiha Lateef of Shirkat Gaah, Asad Butt of HRCP, Farhat Parveen of Now Communities and Kami Sid of Sab Rung were the panellists.

“We have been working on bodily rights in the context of violence against women as well as sexual and reproductive health,” said Madiha Lateef. “It is often believed that violence can only take place through the physical or emotional realm, but the denial of opportunities and access to health is also a form of violence.”

She added that gender-based violence needs to be treated in a holistic manner by understanding the economic dimensions as well as understanding how women are unable to acquire education which would also help them. “We may have laws in place but they too are limiting and I feel in order to address the issue of violence we need to start focusing on changing ideologies with respect to the treatment of women as equal beings rather than as subhumans,” she said. “It is encouraging to see laws being passed to ensure accountability but it’s not the only way to curb violence.”

Speaking about the victims of acid attacks, Madiha said that many a time there were issues in lodging the FIR of the attack because the police kept on making errors in filing them because they too are unaware about the law in place especially for such cases. “It is the unwillingness on the part of the state institutions because they do not recognise the laws. Often women who do gear up strength to report are sent home in cases of domestic violence.”

Asad Butt, the vice chairperson of HRCP, said the governments often do well in the legislature front to please international bodies but despite the existence of laws they are yet to be implemented and people in powerful positions yet to be challenged as well.

Transgender activist Kami Sid said that even though a very effective law has been introduced for the community, transgender people feel unsafe and threatened.

“Until the transgender community gets equal opportunities, its members cannot be expected to give up their means of livelihood,” she explained. “Many times, when they leave functions they are harassed by men who often get violent. We protested today because two of the community members were attacked and the car toppled over due to the shots fired at it. We went to file an FIR and were not entertained, and hence we are out on the streets demanding our rights to exist,” she stressed.

Director of NOW Communities, Farhat Parveen, said that without mobility, women cannot get independence and their reliance on at least one male member in their lives makes them unable to fight for themselves. She said a majority of the women who are unable to escape the cycle of violence is because either they are economically dependent or even when they are earning members they have little to no control on the money they bring home.

She recommended that positions set for women only be led by women like the ombudsperson on the harassment issues or even international bodies working solely for women.

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