Eight years into its democratic transition, violence against women is still endemic in Pakistan, amid a climate of impunity and state inaction. Discriminatory legislation and a dysfunctional criminal justice system have put women at grave risk. Targeted by violent extremists with an overt agenda of gender repression, women’s security is especially threatened in the conflict zones in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). On 8 March, International Women’s Day, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed that his government would take all necessary legislative and administrative steps to protect and empower women. If this pledge was in earnest, his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government should end institutionalised violence and discrimination against women, including by repealing unjust laws, countering extremist threats, particularly in KPK and FATA, and involving women and their specially relevant perspectives in design of state policies directly affecting their security, including strategies to deal with violent extremist groups.
Subject: This research memorandum presents key findings from desk research conducted in January and February 2014, on the barriers to instituting appropriate VAW laws against domestic violence (DV), and to effectively implementing them in three countries in Asia (China, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka).
Background and Cross-Cutting Findings: China, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka have all ratified CEDAW; however, both China and Pakistan have not passed the Optional Protocol to CEDAW. Research found four cross-cutting barriers impeding the institutionalization of appropriate VAW laws against DV in these three countries:
1) The predominant public discourse on DV is fragmented. As a result, an overall sense of urgency and severity of the problem is not felt among key stakeholders in all 3 countries.
2) Other national policies regarding housing, marriage, fertility, migration, etc. undermine both the international (CEDAW) legal framework, and the national policies set up for service provision and protection across all three countries.
3) There is an overall lack of appropriate resource allocation among all 3 countries for comprehensively implementing appropriate VAW laws against DV. A large body of evidence suggests multiple root causes for VAW-DV, and States disagree on where and how to allocate resources to VAW-DV (prevention, intervention, prosecution, and protection).
4) Incomparable and unreliable data is the 4th major barrier to instituting appropriate VAW laws against DV both internationally through CEDAW, and nationally within all 3 countries. Transparency of data collection methodologies is also a noted concern.
Sources indicate that domestic violence in Pakistan is a "serious problem" (US 24 May 2012, 1; Human Rights WatchJan. 2012). Sources report on several forms of domestic violence, including torture (US 24 May 2012, 42; WEWA 18 Dec. 2012), forced marriages (ibid. 9 Dec. 2012; AHRC 25 Nov. 2011), physical disfigurement (US 24 May 2012, 42), amputation (HRCP 2012, 166), the denial of food (AHRC 25 Nov. 2011), rape (ibid.; WEWA 9 Dec, 2012), and shaving hair and eyebrows (US 24 May 2012, 42).
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) indicates that perpetrators of domestic violence can be the victim's husband, or men or women in the victim's family or her husband's family (25 Nov. 2011). The US Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 states that in-laws have abused and harassed the wives of their sons (US 24 May 2012, 43).
The AHRC states that victims are often stigmatized and blamed for the gender-based violence that they have experienced, and have often been labelled as the "false accuser" (2012, Sec. J.3). The AHRC adds that when a woman is beaten, society portrays it as being because the woman cannot take care of her husband's needs (25 Nov. 2011). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
This report tracks the progress made by women in South Asia in areas such as violence against women, and economic empowerment. This was the base document for the Seventh South Asia Regional Ministerial Conference in October 2010.
2011 was a mixed bag for human rights. There certainly were some positives; some things remained unchanged; and then there were the aggravations. Ratification of a key child rights instrument, extension of Political Parties Act to FATA, introduction of laws to promote women's rights, religious minorities getting representation in the Senate, and a right to statutory bail for detainees in prisons are all steps that ought to be welcomed.
Unfortunately, the inability to introduce implementation mechanisms for international human rights treaties ratified by Pakistan remained unchanged, as did the indifference to or complicity with banning women from voting, and curbing disappearances and extrajudicial killings. The moratorium on executions stayed informal. The prisons remained at breaking point. Nothing was done to revive elected student unions in educational institutions or end the glut of weapons across the country. The public education system remained a scandal, the budgetary allocations to public healthcare fell even further, the government ceded ground to extremists and was utterly unprepared at the framework level to cope with internal displacement and its impact.
Ratification by Pakistan of all core international human rights treaties was among the positive highlights of the year, although the benefits were not immediately visible to the people. Two new laws were enacted to deal with sexual harassment. The Commission of Enquiry on Missing Persons cited the intelligence agenciesí role in enforced disappearances and for the first time the Supreme Court issued notices to these agenciesí heads. In the conflict-ravaged Swat region, the Taliban could no longer patrol the roads or flog citizens. The activities of non-governmental organisations grew, although many of the threats they faced also increased.
Media coverage of trafficking of women and children, migration and sex work is confused and inaccurate. Media wrongly uses the terms ‘sex work’ and ‘trafficking’ synonymously, perpetuating stereotypes and stigmatisation and contributing to the violation of women’s right to free movement and livelihood options, say these authors. If media reports were to be believed, there would be no young girls left in Nepal. Oftquoted figures such as 5,000-7,000 Nepali girls being trafficked across the border to India every year and 150,000-200,000 Nepali women and girls being trapped in brothels in various Indian cities, were first disseminated in 1986 and have remained unaltered over the next two decades. The report that first quoted these statistics was written by Dr I S Gilada of the Indian Health Association, Mumbai, and presented in a workshop in 1986. Subsequently, a version of this report was published as an article in the Times of India on January 2, 1989. The source of this figure remains a mystery to date. Unfortunately, such a lack of clarity is more the norm than the exception when it comes to reporting on trafficking in women and girls.