WAR to quit the field

Pakistan Press Foundation

The news that War Against Rape (WAR) may have to wind up its operations due to a lack of donor funding comes as a blow to human rights in Pakistan.

The NGO has been providing critical counselling and legal support to rape victims in Pakistan, and has battled several high-profile cases including that of Kainat Soomro and the Mazar-e-Quaid rape case. According to a news report in this paper, WAR’s main donor ICCO, a Dutch organisation, has withdrawn funding since 2011 and shifted its priorities to other areas. Unable to raise funds from alternate sources, the NGO has plunged into a financial crisis and will most likely discontinue operations.

Since 1989, WAR, along with other organisations like the HRCP, has been critical in raising awareness about human rights issues in Pakistan. These organisations have done significant work in bringing issues such as violence against women in public debate and mobilising public opinion in favour of human rights. It is in part due to their efforts that changes such as the Women’s Protection Bill 2006 have been made to the law. However, there can be no doubt that much more needs to be done. Rape statistics in Pakistan are sketchy and the crime is grossly underreported. Victims, even when they do come forward, have to fight an uphill battle to get justice, and it is in this area that WAR was performing a critical service, extending legal help and taking up cases for litigation. With the drying up of funds, it has drastically cut back on the number of cases it takes up and soon may not even be able to follow through with those.

WAR is one of only a handful of organisations which are engaged in serious human rights work in Pakistan, and its closure would mean a serious setback to women’s rights in Pakistan. Sustainable funding is an inherent problem with NGOs, and local donors must step forward to help WAR. Since the government lacks an effective programme of its own in this field, it might consider financing the organisation, at least partly.

Source: The Express Tribune

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