By Syed Arhum Kamaal
The recent frequent incidences of extreme violence against women in Pakistan have highlighted the need of a nationwide campaign to rid the society of this growing menace. We need to become more considerate and kindhearted as societies, we need to raise better children with strong values of compassion and mutual respect. There is a dire need to advocate for fair and speedy justice as an effective deterrent for the perpetrators. Raising voice for the change is the only remedy. Let’s #Think&Change.
These recent events have glaringly brought to light the horrendous issue of violence against women to the extent of costing them their lives. This critical time demands that we raise voice and mainstream the real issues seeking practice and policy change to build a better society.
International law, ratified by the Constitution of Pakistan, grants the right to life, dignity and protection to everyone, regardless of their gender, age, religion, background or caste. It is a basic human right. Any form of violence, be it physical, emotional, psychological or verbal, is unacceptable and considered a violation of human rights and its very foundation. All forms of violence should be discouraged by all members of the society. Denunciation to violence needs to be part of our inherent DNA, not just an obligation.
We need to think about our personal and social responsibility towards ending this cycle of violence. We need to individually and collectively change attitudes and behaviours that are allowing and encouraging violence against women. Condemning violence we should also highlight the benefits of a violence-free society.
There is a lot of work that is being done in this regard at the national and provincial levels. Mashal e Haq, an advocacy and awareness campaign is working in support of the Government of Pakistan, for the rights of the marginalized and minorities. Recently, through their #Think&Change campaign, they are raising awareness around violence against women to ignite a change in attitudes and behaviors.
To bring an end to violence, the narrative needs to change and the shame associated with and the stigma attached to victims of gender based violence and domestic violence needs to shift to the perpetrator rather than the victim. There is a dire need for everyone to adopt zero tolerance towards discrimination and victim blaming. It is our responsibility as citizens and human beings to address, take action against and end violence against women, marginalized and vulnerable groups. We cannot blame the victim for our actions and reactions. Our silence is an endorsement of the violence. Our acceptance is an endorsement of violence. Our inaction is an endorsement of violence. It is our responsibility to #Think&Change.
We must also be aware of the existing policies, laws, systems, institutions and measures in place for the protection and empowerment of women. The Government of Pakistan has taken revolutionary steps to address human rights violations, especially against women. The Ministry of Human Rights has launched a toll free helpline, 1099, to safely report domestic abuse and any other human rights violations, along with a mobile application called 1099 Helpline App to provide a discrete platform for women and children to report violence. The government has also introduced policies whereby shelter homes, women protection officers and District Protection Committees have been arranged to better protect women and vulnerable groups. Dedicated provincial helplines and help desks are also available for women.
Violence can happen to anyone and in any form, regardless of their background. However, women and children tend to be an easy target and more vulnerable to human rights violations. A staggering total of 9,401 cases of violence against women were recorded in Pakistan in 2020 alone. From the workplace to the comfort of their homes, women have been an unfortunate target of violence in many forms at all levels. 1422 cases of domestic violence were recorded in 2020 and a surprising 48 cases of harassment at work. These figures are an eye opener and an insight into the safety of women.
We need to raise Voice and take Action to end this violence now.
Mashal e Haq, a campaign by The Asia Foundation