Lahore: The Punjab government is following a zero-tolerance policy about violence against women and girls.
This was stated by Provincial Minister for Human Rights and Minority Affairs Ijaz Alam Augustine during a policy dialogue arranged by an NGO in collaboration with Pakistan Girl Guides Association, National Commission for Human Rights and Australian High Commission in Pakistan in connection with the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. The minister said the government would ensure inclusiveness in all policy matters to reflect the voices of marginalised groups in the decision-making process.
The girls on the occasion appreciated the Punjab government for legislation and establishment institutions to deal with the issue of violence against women. Rashida Qureshi, the programme coordinator for the NGO, said the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence Campaign was an international campaign that took place each year from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, World Human Rights Day.
Iftikhar Mubarik, executive director of the NGO, highlighted the importance of equipping the young girls with appropriate information and skills particularly focusing on legal framework of Pakistan to address the deep-rooted issue of gender-based violence. Hina, a 16-year old girl, highlighted the issue of discrimination between boys and girls in terms of minimum legal age for marriage for girls and boys as it was 18 for boys and 16 years for girls. It must be a concern for all key stakeholders keeping in view the lack of maturity in any person under 18 would not be awarded national identity card, driving licence or even would not be offered an ordinary formal employment.
Sonia, a rights activist, stressed the need for including online safety as important component of curriculum keeping in view immerging issues like cyber harassment of women.
Mr. Brek Betley, deputy high commissioner of Australia in Pakistan, urged upon inclusion of all stakeholders, including parents, teachers, religious leaders, local government representatives, media, civil society, parliamentarians and ministers to address the issue of violence against women and girls. A group of parliamentarians comprising Mrs Zakia Shahnawaz of PML-N, Mrs Musarrat Jamshed Cheema, PTI, Mrs Sadia Sohail Rana, PTI, Mrs Neelum Hayat, PTI and Mrs Sumaira Ahmed Bukhari, PTI, assured their full support in raising the issues faced by girls. They said that they would raise the issue of minimum legal age for marriage and make efforts to make public spaces safe and accessible to all without any discrimination on gender basis, incorporation of online safety in school, college and university curricula. The representatives from Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, Chief Minister’s Strategic Reform Unit, National Commission for Human Rights and other government departments also endorsed the demands made by the girls to end all forms of gender based violence.