Women make up at least half of Pakistan’s population, 48.5% to be exact. So, when the female gender lacks protection and safety, that’s around half of the population that feels unsafe. Consequently, the need to create a conversation around violence against women and gender-based violence is growing by the day. It impacts half of our population, and that’s a huge number!
Any form of violence, be it physical, emotional, psychological, or verbal, is unacceptable and considered a violation of human rights. Violence, often either unrecognized or concealed, can happen to anyone and in any form, regardless of their background. Gender-based violence is a rising concern all over Pakistan.
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 a 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.
Keeping these statistics in mind, it is our responsibility as citizens of Pakistan to start working towards a change in the mindset and the narrative surrounding violence against women, domestic violence, victim-blaming, and human rights violations in all forms and at all levels. It is our responsibility as citizens and human beings to address, take action against and end violence against women and other vulnerable groups.
Additionally, it is also extremely important for us to be equipped with the necessary information and be aware of the existing policies, systems, institutions, and measures in place for the protection and empowerment of women.
The Government of Pakistan has taken revolutionary steps in the past 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. A mobile application called the 1099 Helpline App has also been launched, and is regularly updated, to provide a discrete platform for women and children to report violence. Additionally, the Punjab Women Toll-Free helpline, 1043, is available 24 hours, addressing harassment, violence, and discrimination against women.
The Madadgar National Helpline, 1098, is also another helpline introduced for women and children suffering from violence, abuse, and exploitation. The Government of Pakistan has also introduced policies whereby shelter homes, women protection officers and District Protection Committees have been arranged to better protect women and vulnerable groups.
There are also many campaigns and projects working towards increasing women’s empowerment and protection in Pakistan. One such endeavor is Mashal-e-Haq, a digital campaign, which is raising awareness regarding human rights, their violations, and empowering and protecting vulnerable and marginalized groups. With a special focus on women empowerment and protection, the #ZaraSuno #ThinkAndChange, Mashal-e-Haq is encouraging online audiences to instill values of patience, tolerance, peace, and acceptance in their behaviors while also educating audiences about rights and laws, policies, and measures that protect the rights of women.
Building awareness around the social responsibility of all citizens of Pakistan to speak and act against violence and human rights violations against women and other marginalized groups is vital! It is the need of the hour. The need to bring a change in the mindset of people is key in bringing an end to violence against women and human rights violations.
To bring an end to violence, the narrative needs to change and the shame associated with and the stigma attached to victims of GBV 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. To change the mindset and to empower and protect women, there must be a safe and secure space for conversation and dialogue.