2013, 2014, acid attacks, agenda, CEDAW, crime, customary, discrimination, family honour, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, jirgas, Lahore, legislation, minors, Muzaffargarh, National Assembly, NGOs, Pakistan, persecuted, pro-women, Punjab police, rapes, sexual harassment, Shariah, stripping, Taliban, traditions, UN Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, victims, wani, women’s rights, workplace, Zohra Yusuf
It is 18 years since Pakistan signed the UN Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). However, Pakistan falls far short of its commitment to the international community to ensure equal rights for women. By not implementing the provisions of CEDAW, the Pakistani government is – to put it bluntly – cheating the international community, apart from, of course, perpetuating discrimination against half of its citizens. Every year the shadow report put together by NGOs attempts to tell the truth about the status of women in Pakistan.
CEDAW apart, the various pro-women legislation passed by the previous National Assembly has yet to be implemented. The law against sexual harassment at the workplace is poorly enforced, with most organisations (and working women themselves) remaining unaware of its existence. Similarly, legislation to end customary practices that adversely affect women remains a piece of paper as women continue to be persecuted through traditions such as wani or decisions passed by illegal jirgas.
The year 2013 was particularly violent for Pakistan’s women. There were several headline-grabbing cases of rapes of minors. The one of a five-year old child in Lahore has still not been solved by the Punjab police even after the passage of over four months. Meanwhile, in Muzaffargarh early this year, a jirga ordered the stripping of a woman to avenge family honour. And, in spite of the enhancement in punishment for acid attacks, women continued to be the victims of this horrendous crime as sale of acid has not been prohibited.
What does 2014 hold for the Pakistani woman? It is clear that their rights are not on the agenda of the present government as it appears totally overwhelmed by the existential threat from the Taliban. There are also fears that women’s rights may be bartered away in any deal with the Taliban for imposition of Shariah.
The writer is Chairperson, Human RightsCommission of Pakistan (HRCP).
First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on March 2, 2014.