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Workshop in Karachi on Gender-based violence

Date: December 25-29, 2006

Location: Karachi

Any gender-based act that results in physical, sexual or mental torture or harm to women or any form of threats to harm women may be described as gender based violence.

In Pakistan, a majority of women not only lack their basic rights but also face social, cultural and economic barriers, besides bearing gender-based violence. Hence, to stop violence on women, these social values need to be changed.

The Pakistan Press Foundation organised a five day training workshop to raise awareness on violence against women. It was held in Karachi from December 25 to 29, 2006 and was attended by members of PPF.

The workshop discussed “Karo-kari” or “honour killing” in Sindh province and in Punjab province where the practice is known as “Siyah-kari”.

Participants stated Karo-kari as a practise for political gains where the victims are poor. In the upper classes, such issues are hushed up.

The practise of honour killing emerged from the province of Balochistan thousands of years ago where the decision regarding the marriage of women was made by fathers or brothers, and women were murdered in the name of honour for protesting against their marriages.

Traditional male feeling of superiority and power combined with illiteracy and backwardness promotes this oppressive practice. Some workshop participants suggested ameliorating violence against women if there was poverty reduction.

Coomonly involved in violence against women include close relatives, in-laws, work supervisors, friends, neighbours, police, and co-workers. Traditional local courts or “Jirgas” were held responsible for encouraging violence.

Women suffer violence at the hands of state organizations and private organizations. The violence through state organizations include harrasment by police officials and their refusal to lodge FIR while illegally confining women.

Dr Tahira Khan, author of “Behind Honor” said forms of violence included included mental torture or ridiculing of women by their supervisors and coworkers, discrimination in wages, less preference in appointments and increased work load.

She said it is a common misperception that violence against women is limited to poor and illiterate families, but women of educated and wealthy families also face many forms of violence. Problems of these two extreme societies need to be understood and dealt with separately.

Economic deprivation, lack of basic facilities, gender discrimination, under-age marriages, sexual harassment and seizure of property rights are also types of mental torture. Physical torture includes beating, burning, strangulating, acid burning, drowning and rape.

The workshop participants also gave examples of forms of violence on women such as insecurity at local level, nutritional deficiency, lack of healthcare, improper education facili
ties, forced labour, lack of economic protection, deprivation of property rights, torture in jails, closure of schools and health centers in rural areas, forced work in fields, kidnapping, sexual exploitation, forced marriages, lack of participation in decision-making, giving women as fine to settle disputes, marriages with Quran, depriving working women of their incomes by male members of their families, making the issue of working of women an ego problem, depriving the right to vote, discouraging widows from remarriage, snatching inheritance right of daughters, reciprocal marriages, ridiculing by in-laws and not allowing married women to work, etc.

Two women right activists, Uzma Noorani of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and Anis Haroon of Aurat Foundation gave presentations at the workshop.

Anis Haroon informed participants the right to life, marraige and freedom of expression were included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights UDHR. She said violence on women was increasing with the passage of time.

Uzma Noorani said women needed health, confidence and freedom, but in Pakistan they lacked these basic rights. She said presently more than four thousand women were languishing in Pakistani jails. She said the Women Protection Bill was a good beginning but much more is needed to be done.

Zia Awan of Lawyers of Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA) said no effective law could be made or implemented until there were changes in the attitude of the society. He said during the last four and a half years, 4,572 cases of Karo-kari were registered in the country. He said the media was only highlighting 10 percent of these cases, while ignoring a remaining 90 percent.

The presentation by reproductive health and rights organization, Aahung highlighted that thousands of women in Pakistan die due to lack of proper medical care during childbirth. Their ages vary between 16 to 19 years. She said a woman or a child faced sexual violence in Pakistan every two hours and every third housewife faced violence.

Two doctors of Jinnah Hospital told participants that women victims of burning did not disclose their sufferings due to family pressure, but their physical state showed that they were victims of violence.

Retired Supreme Chief Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid said many committees were formed in the past to check gender-based violence but in vain. He said it was the need of the hour that people should be included in the committee on permanent basis and regular salaries, so that they could peruse suggestions for revision of laws. He asked the government to ensure implementation of such laws.

Participants wrote articles and features on the topic. Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) Chairman, Fazal Qureshi and PPF Feature Coordinator, Bilqees Jehan delivered lectures on feature writing.


List of Speakers
Dr Tahira Khan
Uzma Noorani
Council Member
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
Anis Haroon
Resident Director
Aurat Foundation
Zia Awan
Lawyers of Human Rights and Legal Aid
Nasir Aslam Zahid
Retired Supreme Chief Justice
Fazal Qureshi
Pakistan Press Foundation
Bilqees Jehan
Feature Editor
Pakistan Press Foundation

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