The Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) organised a seminar for journalists, in connection with the 25th November, United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, on Thursday, 24 November 2005 at the PPF Vicky Zeitlin Media Library, Press Centre, Shahrah Kamal Ataturk,
Prof. Dr. Musarrat Hussain Psychiatrist Jinnah Hospital and Coordinator, Mental Health Relief Program, Ministry of Health, Government of Pakistan, Ms. Uzma Noorani, Council Member Human Right Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Ms. Nuzhat Shireen, Coordinator, Legislative Watch Program, Aurat Foundation and Ms. Sheher Bano, Editor, Supplements, of The News addressed the seminar.
The speakers highlighted various aspects of violence against women and stressed on its elimination. They also showed concern for women in the earthquake affected areas and called for measures to protect them from any kind of gender-based harassment and violence.
Prof. Dr. Musarrat Hussain, Psychiatrist Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Center (JPMC) and Coordinator of Mental Relief Program, Federal Ministry of Health, in his presentation, narrated his experience in the earthquake-affected areas; he said that lack of privacy in camps was resulting in growing mental illness, especially amongst women. He told that as a general rule cases of mental illness tend to increase by hundred percent in all areas-hit by natural calamities.
He said that more than 8000 women in the quake-hit areas were pregnant and they might face serious problems during childbirth process. He said that the issue of single-mothers in these camps was also a sensitive one, which should be dealt accordingly. He said that elderly women in the camps were also facing serious mental and psychological problems.
He said that in many cases mental affects of earthquake devastation emerged after one month of the incident, while in other cases they would surface after interval of four months and one year. He said that the government and NGOs should also concentrate on establishing ‘satellite centers’ in all major cities of the country, as a substantial number of affectees of the earthquake were coming to their relatives in these cities. He estimated that some 0. 2 million people from the affected areas of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and NWFP would ultimately come to live with their relatives in Karachi alone.
He suggested that disaster relief centers and groups should also be set up in all major cities of the country and dependence on foreign social workers should be lessened, as they could not stay here forever.
He told that cases of sexually transmitted diseases, skin disease and HIV/ AIDS were increasing in the affected areas. He said that womenfolk and children in the quake-hit areas, especially those with their male family members perished, should be provided with proper protection.
He said that, generally, the violence emerged when the confronting parties failed to settle their dispute verbally, through logic and reason.
He said that the lack of communication skills, especially amongst the women and the traditional passive rule imposed on them by the society, was responsible for violence against women, besides other factors. He said the communication skills lead to awareness and awareness leads to power. He said that it was general perception that male was responsible for violence against women, but in many circumstances women too were responsible for violence against women. He said that besides physical violence, other shapes of violence were spoken, written and non-verbal violence. He said that simply ignoring females, socially and psychologically, was also a major violence against women.
Prof. Musarrat said that violence against female started with her birth, ironically, by their own parents, who showed less happiness and w
armness towards this event as compared to the birth of male child. He said that celebrating the birth of male child and ignoring it during birth of female child was the first gender-based violence, committed by parents and family.
He said that though there were biological difference between man and women, but the literature, culture, customs and social values unnecessarily declared the woman as a too weak and dependent human being. In this regard quoted example by use of word “fair sex” in literature and media.
Prof. Musarrat said that the mentally weak women were more vulnerable to the violence, as their communication skills were even low. He said that psychologically the man who beat woman and the woman who passively tolerated this behaviour were both mentally sick. He said that women could not deal with the issue of violence against women alone, and the male members of the society should also play their rule in mitigating the suffering of women. He suggested that as there was no proper social-security network for workingwomen, they should be given special care and attention, and they should not burden themselves with extra responsibilities. He told that divorce ratio amongst the workingwomen was much higher as compared to the non-working women.
Ms. Uzma Noorani, Council Member of HRCP, spoke about monitoring and identifying problems and issues of women in earthquake hit areas and how can they be helped. She said that various women specific issues need attention such as women’s security, providing health services, giving women proper share of relief aid, and shelter and support to single mothers, young girls and old women and ownership of property issue . She said that women who lost their limbs due to earthquake related accidents should be provided with artificial limbs without discrimination.
Ms. Nuzhat Shireen, of Aurat Foundation said that violence against women in Pakistan goes on; in fact it is probably one of the few countries where is actually on the rise. According to the HRCP Report 2004, thousands women are killed in Pakistan every year as a result of ‘honour’ killings, subjected to domestic violence, or are burnt with acid or kerosene.
Pakistan being a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1996 has confirmed its commitment to the cause of women and is bound to protect them from aggression. The situation has not changed much because of the existence of discriminatory laws on the one hand, and lack of political will to enforce laws that do grant women their due rights, on the other. The government should take serious notice of all such acts of violence against women and make certain legal protection and review existing laws, including the Zina law and the qisas and diyat law. Investigate all allegations of violence against women and prosecute and punish those found to be responsible.
She said that gender perspective should be properly reflected in the media and said that women earthquake victims’ plight was not properly highlighted in media reporting. She said that women were vulnerable to harassment in the earthquake-hit areas and needed safeguards and protection.
Sheher Bano said that the media has appropriately addressed the issue of violence against women and has reported many ugly incidents such as karo-kari, rape, burning and disfiguring and many other crimes.
She also stressed for the need to project the means to combat violence and impart awareness among victimized women of their rights and how to protect themselves.
The press also has brought forward, the illegal and cruel attitudes of jirgas. The media should continue and expand this nature of work. She said that, media can further help combat gender based violence by using a gender sensitive tone in reporting.
|List of Speakers|
|Prof. Dr. Musarrat Hussain||
Psychiatrist Jinnah Hospital and Coordinator Mental Health Relief Program
|Ministry of Health Government of Pakistan|
|Ms. Uzma Noorani||
|Human Right Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)|
|Ms. Nuzhat Shireen||
|Ms. Sheher Bano||