She was of the view that media had not been sensitized about the women issues. Even, the anchors are not aware of the real issues. She cited the recent case of eight-year Zainab, who was raped and killed in Kasur. In another case, in the past, a three-month-old girl was raped in Civil Hospital, Quetta. She regretted that despite these terrible horrifying crimes, things not seem to have improved.
She said that the Aurat Foundation was not only working for women but also for men in the way by safeguarding the rights of their wives, daughters and sisters.
On the question of the difference between the developed countries and underdeveloped like Pakistan in connection to women rights protection, Mahnaz replied that the developed countries have formed the institutions to fights the menace and the institutions have a very decisive role to play.
She also added that punishment alone could not solve the problem, citing the example of Saudi Arabia, which has most strict laws but it despite you cannot say it’s the best the society. Economic empowerment of women is equally important.
PIIA chairperson Dr Masuma Hasan
PIIA chairperson Dr Masuma Hasan said that in Pakistan over the past 10 years there had been many pro-women laws passed. Some of the laws passed were possible due to the civil society, in particular, the Aurat Foundation, who worked very hard to make citizens, parliamentarians and the government aware of women’s rights, she said.
“There is a need for attitudinal changes in society that both men and women are equal and deserve equal treatment. For this, we need men to be part of the conversation and without political education, in the country we cannot achieve women’s rights. The infrastructure that governments possess civil society activists do not have access to; institutions need to be set up in Pakistan that are not corrupt and function purely for human rights and this is the responsibility of the federal and provincial governments.”
Legal punishment, she said, was not sufficient to eliminate violence against women. “Punishments don’t always have a long-term effect; there is a need to empower citizens on a social and economic front.”
Nuzhat Shirin, the chairperson of the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women
Nuzhat Shirin, the chairperson of the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women, shared her journey which started off as a journalist reporting on women’s rights. She credited the Aurat Foundation for training her and teaching her as to how to raise the issue of women’s rights. “I was taught that there even needs to be a separate diction to write about such issues. I was taught how to raise the issue within the agendas of political parties and function within legislative bodies.”
However, women’s rights in Pakistan greatly suffer due to lack of political commitment and not the implementation of laws. For instance, we have seen that safe homes and shelters in Sindh have been established on paper for many years now and budgets allocated for them. However, when we visit them we realise that the funds are being misused and abused on many different levels.”
MPA Rana Ansar
Other speakers included MPA Rana Ansar who shared her 18-year-old struggle of being from a humble family with no political aspirations to become an integral part of the struggle for women’s rights in Pakistan.
Jamil Junejo from the Legal Advisory Call Centre
Jamil Junejo from the Legal Advisory Call Centre said that to some extent, violence against women and the trend to isolate women from mainstream activities just on account of their gender had been mitigated by exposure to international organisations working for women’s emancipation. He cited examples of places in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where women voters had turned out in large numbers in certain constituencies.
Noted Sindhi poetess Attiya Abro recited two of her poems on the struggle by women.