By Amin Ahmed
ISLAMABAD: As the international community observes the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Wednesday, the concern is that the practice persists in all countries, and its perpetrators are often well known to their victims.
The government in a recent report to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, stated that the main challenges Pakistan faces in the promotion and protection of women’s rights is to ensure that international obligations, constitutional provisions, the law enacted, the implementation machinery and monitoring mechanisms created and various programmes launched bring a positive change in lives of Pakistani women.
The report admitted that the challenge has not yet been overcome because of multiplicity of factors. The state suffers from a serious impoverishment of resources. There is also a cross sectional lack of awareness and entrenched societal attitudes relating to women and women’s rights. This affects the range and quality of initiatives that can be taken for the promotion and protection of women’s rights.
Agents of the State, particularly the officials of the Ministry of Women Development do not get sufficient resources and training to adequately deal with the range and complexity of issues they confront in carrying out their mandate. A similar paucity of resources and sometimes of awareness and adequate training afflicts the judiciary and the law enforcement departments and agencies.
Violence against women has a far deeper impact than the immediate harm caused. It has devastating consequences for the women who experience it, and a traumatic effect on those who witness it, particularly children. It shames states that fail to prevent it and societies that tolerate it. Violence against women is a violation of basic human rights that must be eliminated through political will, and by legal and civil action in all sectors of society.
The Speaker of National Assembly, Dr Fehmida Mirza, in a statement on the day, stated that the progressive political and social forces in Pakistan have remained instrumental in curbing this evil during the past six decades.
She said that the present Parliament, being a genuinely representative house, was fully alive to that reality, and had passed significant legislations, enabling the state machinery to effectively control violence against women. The passage of the VAW Bill, amendment in the penal code to check harassment at work place and the tabling of the related bill were a few examples.
In his message, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “Our goal is clear: an end to these inexcusable crimes – whether it is the use of rape as a weapon of war, domestic violence, sex trafficking, so-called “honour” crimes or female genital mutilation/cutting. We must address the roots of this violence by eradicating discrimination and changing the mindsets that perpetuate it.
“Women around the world are the very linchpin keeping families, communities, and nations together. On this International Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to women’s human rights; let us invest more resources in countering this violence; and let us do all it takes to end these horrific assaults once and for all.”