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270 acts of violence against women in 3 months: Aurat report

KARACHI: The Aurat Foundation released their first quarterly report on Violence Against Women (VAW) in Sindh on Monday. The report covers only the first three months of the current year, but already there have been 270 reported cases of VAW, out of which 98 resulted in deaths.

The speakers present all talked about the lack of laws protecting women from violence and sexual harassment, as well as the difficulty of implementing existing laws.

“In our society we give importance to issues like poverty and injustice, but giving importance to violence is very important. There are still discriminatory laws against women,” said Anis Haroon, the resident director of Aurat Foundation. She added that women live in a culture of silence, and the phenomena of ‘izzat’ stops women from reporting cases of violence.

Two girls who did not remain silent were Nasima Labano and Kainat Soomro, both ganged-raped in two separate incidents in January of last year. They were both present at the conference and spoke about the long process they had gone through, still waiting for justice.

Soomro, the younger of the two, sat smiling during the conference until it was her turn to speak. She started crying as she spoke of what had happened to her and her family since they had spoken up against her rape. “We want justice, we are sick, we have no place to live, if we go back they will kill us,” she said. “Those who have destroyed my life deserve the death penalty.”

Labano, who remained serious throughout the conference, got up on stage and spoke angrily about her case. “We have been threatened by wadera’s, landlords, and there is no security for us,” said Labano, firmly ending her speech by saying she wanted justice now.

Haroon also talked about the discriminatory laws such as the hudood and zina ordinances, due to which thousands of women had gone to jail. Demands made by women are called un-Islamic said Haroon. “This society has a feudal, patriarchal mindset. We are ready to be modern, yet when it comes to equality for women we are not ready. As long as we don’t look at women as equal partners, crimes against them will not finish.” Haroon added that we could not wait anymore, the domestic violence Bill was ready to be made into an act.

“It is a long struggle and we will continue till our society has zero tolerance for violence against women,” she declared.

MPA Farheen Mughal spoke about the acts of violence against women. She said that the PPP was committed to protecting women and, although in 2006 they had been part of the opposition, they had still worked with the government to pass the Women Protection Bill. She added that she was not standing before the audience to make any false promises, that she herself had been beaten by the police and could not take any action against them.

She said that she wanted the domestic violence bill to be perfect so that it would not have any loopholes that would help the criminal instead of the victims. “I applaud those women brave enough to report cases of abuse and violence.”

Dr Nisar Ali Shah also spoke on the unavailability of rape kits in the major hospitals of Karachi, and that DNA tests needed to be sent to Lahore therefore there were no proper investigations in rape cases, “The police holds the woman before she’s brought to the hospital,” said Ali Shah. “What does this show about our values?”

The Minister for Women Development finally arrived and spoke on the importance of the implementation of laws. She said that there were three major things planned to help women: Safe shelters for women; a complaint and crisis line, the number of which would be 1339; and a court specializing in women’s issues so that they could get quick justice.

Lala Hassan and Hina Tabassum compiled the report. Hassan gave a short summary on the report, emphasizing that these were only reported cases and that many cases went unreported.
Source: Daily Times
Date:5/20/2008

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