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Pakistan needs decades to ensure gender equality

By Fakhar Durrani

ISLAMABAD: The second last position in that annual Gender Gap Index ranking for the last three years suggests Pakistan needs centuries to ensure gender equality. The 2014 data of National Police Bureau’s Gender Crime Centre claims that on average more than one woman is killed every day in the name of honour.

Gender inequalities and discrimination in Pakistan are deep-rooted, linked to the lower status of women and girls and their physical, economic, social and psychological disempowerment. For three consecutive years (2012, 2013 and 2014) Pakistan has been ranked second last in the annual Gender Gap Index produced by the World Economic Forum.

According to the data of National Police Bureau during 2014, 12,558 cases of violence against women and girls were reported including 517 cases of domestic violence, 3141 of physical abuse, 17 of psychological abuse, 26 of economic abuse, 665 of forced marriages, 46 of incest, 6 of Vani, 1 of Sawara, 6 of wata sata, 41 of life threat, 139 of stalking, 2863 of sexual assault, 770 of sexual harassment, 29 of acid throwing, 381 of honor killing, 6 of stove burning and 3904 cases of other categories of crimes against women.

Similarly the last seven years data of honour killing issued by the NGOs reflect that at least 4061 women were killed between 2008 and 2014.

According to the data 208 accused killers are yet to be arrested. Similarly the data shows 29 victims of acid throwing but no serious action has been taken against the perpetrators as yet.

Pakistan has signed, ratified and adopted international instruments of ending violence against women – UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against women (CEDAW), in 1996. Pakistan is also a signatory to the MDGs, where the third goal on “gender equality and empowerment of women” essentially acknowledges the need to address gender-based violence.

The current female literacy rate is 47% as of 2014, while maternal mortality ratio, estimated to be 260 deaths per 100,000 births, with over 75 per cent of deliveries taking place at home and skilled personnel attending only about 20 per cent of them, is among the highest in South Asia.

As of 2008, of the 47 million employed people in Pakistan, only 9 million were women, and of those 9 million, 70 percent worked in the agricultural sector. The proportion of all female-headed households in Pakistan was estimated at 10.9 percent, with women heading 11.5 and 9.7 of rural and urban households respectively.

The Constitution of Pakistan, 1973 (Article 27) states that women would have an equal opportunity to enter the civil service as men. In 2007, the GoP adopted a policy that 10 percent positions in government were to be reserved for women and allocated according to the share of total civil service positions allocated to each province/region.

However lack of educational opportunity at the matriculation and above levels limits women’s ability to compete for high scores on tests used to rank candidates to be considered for a post. During 2008 to 2013, five women were made parliamentary secretaries out of a total of 26 (20 percent); they headed less than 20 percent of the standing committees in the National Assembly and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Punjab and Sindh Provincial Assemblies.

Women representatives were able to move 20 out of 53 members’ bills during this period, data shows. All 17 judges of the Supreme Court are men. According to a national level survey conducted by Aurat Foundation 70 percent of women are not allowed to leave home to: i) visit a bank, ii) attend a meeting, iii) go to a job or iv) pursue education.

According to a multi-district study in Pakistan by Rutgers World Population Foundation, 66 % of interviewed women had experienced sexual violence and three fourth of the interviewed women reported having experienced physical violence. It is important to note that socio-cultural and structural barriers as well as victim shaming contribute to severe under-reporting of violence against women and girls.

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