KARACHI: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan HRCP has voiced alarm over increasing violence against women in Pakistan.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Commission said: “HRCP has watched with grave concern the rising incidence of violence against women in Pakistan in recent days. Unfortunately, such incidents have always been commonplace in the country but now such reports are coming not from far-off places but from the main cities. Several cases of rape have been reported from the Punjab in the past few days, including that of the five-year old child.
To give a scale of the problem, in the city of Lahore alone, police had registered 113 cases of rape from January 1 to August 31 this year. Over the same period, police in the provincial capital of Punjab had registered 32 gangrape cases. The problem in hardly confined to Punjab. The plight of Kainat Soomro, a young rape victim in Sindh, and the excesses she has had to endure in her efforts to bring her tormentors to justice are there for all to see. Her ordeal represents how rape victims who have the courage to pursue their rapists are left to fend for themselves.
Earlier this week, Three women were shot dead by family members in the name of ‘honour’ in Kohat, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. According to media monitoring by HRCP, until the end of July this year, at least 44 women had become targets of acid attacks, seven of whom had died as a result of their injuries. As many as 44 women had been set on fire; 11 had died in such attacks. As many as 451 women had been killed in Pakistan in the name of honour in 2013 by the end of July, compared to 918 killed in 2012.
Furthermore, HRCP is acutely concerned that risks have grown for all those who try and help the victims is any manner or try to expose the excesses. Human rights defenders who try to highlight excesses against women have become particularly vulnerable. In fact, an HRCP staff member had to be relocated just a fortnight earlier because his reporting of a woman’s beating by her relatives upset the family so that they threatened to kill him and started following him around.
Such targeting of a section of population solely on account of gender is utterly unacceptable and it is a matter of shame that the society at large has not felt compelled to raise a strong enough voice to putting an end to this travesty. A combination of factors has contributed to this culture of violence against women and impunity for the perpetrators. One is the perpetual living in denial and a persistent refusal to acknowledge as a society that we have a problem of pervasive violence against women that needs to be addressed urgently. As women have struggled to gain greater say in decisions that affect their lives—from getting education to finding gainful employment and speaking their mind about marriage or choice of their spouse—they seem to have invited ever greater degree and incidence of violence. It is unfortunate that such violence has not been adequately condemned by prominent members of society and political leaders.
The conditions that enable the perpetrators to avoid paying for their crime have also directly contributed to the growth of violence. HRCP called upon the authorities to include ending violence against women and impunity for the violators to its list of priorities in order to do justice by half the population of the country.
HRCP hopes that these steps would include awareness raising and would not merely be confined to making changes in laws that then remain unenforced. The Commission also hopes that at least some meaningful steps would be taken to ensure a safe working environment for journalists and human rights defenders who train a spotlight on violations of women’s rights.”