International Women's Day: Govt hasn't gone beyond rhetoric for women's rights, say leading HR activists -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

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International Women’s Day: Govt hasn’t gone beyond rhetoric for women’s rights, say leading HR activists

Waqar Gillani

Condemn Dr Shazia, Mukhtar Mai cases, say long road ahead to justice Even though leading human rights activist are divided over whether women’s rights conditions in Pakistan have improved or not, they seem to share one view — provision of women’s rights by the Pakistan state is mere rhetoric.

In reference to the International Women’s Day today (Tuesday), Daily Times asked civil activists about the state of affairs of Pakistani women in the backdrop of the Dr Shazia rape case in Sui and the acquittal of Muktar Mai’s alleged rapists. Hina Jilani, the secretary general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and founding member of AGHS legal aid cell, said that there had been improvements, “but this has nothing to do with the government”.

“The progress there has is largely due to civil society and women rights organisations. They have risked their own lives trying to achieve their goals,” she said.

“This government, in particular,” she said, “has tried to use women rights as rhetoric in an attempt to create a liberal, progressive image in the international community. Dr Shazia’s rape case and the outcome of Mukhtar Mai’s case show the government lacks the will to eliminate violence against women.

“The president of Pakistan has protected the accused and has influenced investigations. The state has lost its credibility,” she alleged.

Aurat Foundation’s Nigar Ahmed said women’s rights conditions had worsened and were still deteriorating. “There is a long road ahead,” she said. “However, human rights movements have gained momentum in the last quarter century. The government talks about 33 percent political representation of women in parliament but this has only been made possible because of civil society pressure.”

“Mukhtar Mai’s case is a prime example that nothing substantial has been done to end violence against women. Dr Shazia’s rape is another disgusting example, one that has disgraced Pakistan in the world. Still the state does nothing,” she said.

Shirkat Gah’s Khawer Mumtaz said that the two cases proved the nation’s “infancy” in protecting human rights. “Muktar Mai’s case will encourage other rapists. The rejection of the honour-killing bill means we have a long road ahead to social justice.”

HRCP’s Kamila Hayat said that even though violence had not come down, women were more aware about their rights. “Now, women at least try to seek their rights in domestic violence cases,” she said. “This increase is caused by economic strains, family tensions, lack of education and other negative social factors.”

“Dr Shazia or Muktaran Mai have shown that, for women, getting justice is equally difficult whether you are illiterate or literate,” she said. Shahtaj Qizilbash, convenor of the Joint Action Committee for Peoples’ Rights, said that far from improvement, the plight of women had worsened. Farida Abbas Rashid felt that the situation was mixed.

Simorghs’ Neelam Hussain said that nothing more was left to say about the Dr Shazia and Muktar Mai cases. “Increased awareness has caused bias to increase. Crimes against women have increased and no discriminatory laws have been addressed.”

Source: Daily Times

Date:3/8/2005