By Mudaser Kazi
Pakistan is among those countries where 70% women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime by their intimate partners and 93% women experience some form of sexual violence in public places in their lifetime.
This was stated by founder of Madadgaar National Helpline 1098 and national commissioner for children, Zia Ahmed Awan, while quoting the statistics of international organisations during a press conference at their office on Tuesday.
Awan lauded, in tribute to the International Women Day which is celebrated on March 8 every year, the courage of the 8,897 women and children from across Pakistan who came forward in 2016 and fought for their rights and protection by calling, visiting or contacting Madadgaar’s helpline.
“The data recorded by our organisation is just the tip of the iceberg. Our helpline would [if there was awareness] have been flooded with calls from victims and survivors,” he stated, adding that only 10% cases of violence are being reported in Sindh and Punjab in media with even less reporting from Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
According to him, in order to prevent violence against women and children, the government should act boldly and announce an emergency in the country.
“For us, every day must be women’s day,” he emphasised, saying that an inefficient social justice system is the reason for different forms of violence in Pakistan.
According to the World Economic Forum, it will take another 169 years to bridge the gender gap at our current pace, he shared. “Out of the total cases reported on the helpline, the highest percentage of victims was that of women at 56%,” explained Madadgaar’s general manager Muhammad Ali Bilgrami who added that cases reported by boys were 16%, 15% by girls and 13% by men.
According to Bilgirami, 7,561 cases were reported from Sindh and the least number of cases, 306, were reported from Balochistan. Unrest, targeted killing of the legal fraternity, weak law enforcement, absence of rule of law and overall social, cultural and religious barriers stop people in Pakistan, especially women and girls, to come forward and report violence perpetrated against them, said Bilgrami.
While sharing the nature of cases reported in 2016 to Madadgaar National Helpline, Bilgrami briefed that 118 cases of child marriage, 162 of cybercrime, 14 of child abuse, 2,092 of domestic violence, 14 of forced marriage, 562 of harassment, 12 of karo-kari, 2,251 of missing children, 213 of missing women, 792 of mental torture, 5 of rape, 6 of sodomy, 10 of sexual harassment, 7 of sexual abuse and 5 cases of trafficking. Most of the violent crimes committed against women are strictly prohibited by laws in Pakistan such as child marriage, sexual violence, domestic violence, karo-kari, kidnapping and harassment, said Awan, saying that laws are however, not being implemented and there is a lack of awareness on addressing the complaints through a proper channel.
Awan also highlighted that gender-based cyber violence is on the rise in Pakistan. Children and youth are particularly at risk, he said, demanding that special courts in lower judiciary and special cells at police stations must be established to provide relief to women victims in a male chauvinist society.