LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Tuesday voiced alarm over increasing violence against women in Pakistan.
In a statement, the commission said: “HRCP has watched with grave concern the rising incidences of violence against women in Pakistan recently. Unfortunately, such incidents have always been commonplace in the country but now such reports are coming not from far-off places but from the main cities.”
Several cases of rape had been reported from Punjab in the past few days, including that of the five-year-old child. In Lahore alone, police had registered 113 cases of rape from January 1 to August 31 this year. Over the same period, police in Lahore had registered 32 gang-rape cases, the statement read.
It further said: “The problem is hardly confined to Punjab. The plight of Kainat Soomro, a young rape victim in Sindh, and the excesses she has had to endure in her efforts to bring her tormentors to justice are there for all to see. Her ordeal represents how rape victims, who have the courage to pursue their rapists, are left to fend for themselves. Earlier this week, three women were shot dead by family members in the name of ‘honour’ in Kohat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”
According to media monitoring by the HRCP, until the end of July this year, at least 44 women had become targets of acid attacks, seven of whom had died eventually. As many as 44 women had been set on fire; 11 had died in such attacks. As many as 451 women had been killed in Pakistan in the name of honour in 2013 by the end of July, compared to 918 killed in 2012.
Furthermore, the commission said it was “acutely concerned” that risks had grown even for those who tried and helped the victims in any manner or tried to expose the excesses. Human rights defenders who tried to highlight excesses against women had become particularly vulnerable. In fact, an HRCP staff member had to be relocated just a fortnight earlier as his reporting of a woman being beaten by her relatives upset the family and they had threatened to kill him and started following him around.
“Such targeting of a section of population solely on account of gender is utterly unacceptable and it is a matter of shame that society at large has not felt compelled to raise a strong enough voice to put an end to this travesty,” the commission said.
According to the commission, a combination of factors contributes to the culture of violence against women and impunity for perpetrators. One is the perpetual living in denial and a persistent refusal to acknowledge as a society that there is a problem of pervasive violence against women that needs to be addressed urgently.
As women had struggled to gain greater say in decisions that affected their lives – from getting education to finding gainful employment and speaking their mind about marriage or choice of spouse – they seemed to have invited ever greater degree and incidence of violence. It is unfortunate that such violence had not been adequately condemned by prominent members of society and political leaders. The conditions that enabled the perpetrators to avoid paying for their crime had also directly contributed to the growth of violence.
The HRCP called upon the authorities to include ending violence against women and impunity for violators to its list of priorities in order to do justice to half of the country’s population. It hoped these steps would include raising awareness and would not merely be confined to making changes in laws that remained unenforced.
The commission also hoped at least some steps would be taken to ensure a safe working environment for journalists and human rights defenders.