Status of World’s Women – Report 2011-2012

“Progress of the World’s Women 2011-2012: In Pursuit of Justice”‏ by UN Women.

By Myra Imran

Raising numerous serious questions regarding lacunas in the prevalent justice systems around the world, the UN Women launched its first major report titled ‘Progress of the World’s Women 2011-2012 — In Pursuit of Justice’ in Pakistan on Friday.

Presenting a comparative analysis of global statistics, the first major report following the organisation’s launch in early 2011, mentions that justice remains out of the reach of millions of the world’s women. It says Domestic violence is outlawed in 125 countries of the world but globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime.

Laws based on custom or religion, which exist alongside state legislation, frequently restrict women’s rights within the family, in marriage, divorce and the right to inherit property. “Much has been achieved in the private and public spheres in the last century. Yet discrimination and gender injustice remain prevalent around the world.”

The report says that 117 countries have equal pay laws yet, in practice, women are still paid up to 30 per cent less than men in some countries and women still do more unpaid domestic and caring work than men in every region of the world.

It points out that globally, 53 per cent of working women — 600 million in total — are in vulnerable jobs, such as self-employment, domestic work or unpaid work for family businesses, which often lack the protection of labour laws.

Highlighting another such dimension, the report says that by 2011, at least 52 countries had made marital rape a criminal offence. And yet, over 2.6 billion women live in countries where it has not been explicitly criminalized.

It mentions that in countries where there have been steep increases in women’s representation in Parliaments, progressive laws on women’s rights have often followed yet there are still less than 30 per cent of women in parliament in the vast majority of countries. It further mentions that donors spend US$4.2 billion annually on aid for justice reform, but only 5 per cent of this spending specifically targets women and girls.

The report also recognises the positive progress made and says that 139 countries and territories now guarantee gender equality in their constitutions but it also shows that too often, women continue to experience injustice, violence and inequality in their home and working lives.

To ensure justice becomes a reality for all women, UN Women calls on governments to repeal laws that discriminate against women, support innovative justice services, put women on the frontline of justice delivery and invest in justice system that can respond to women’s need.

It stresses the need to ensure that legislation protects women from violence and inequality in the home and the workplace and demands innovative justice services such as one-stop shops, legal aid and specialised courts, to ensure women can access the justice to which they are entitled.

The report says that across the board, existing laws are too often inadequately enforced, the report finds. Many women shrink away from reporting crimes due to social stigma and weak justice systems. The costs and practical difficulties of seeking justice can be prohibitive — from travel to a distant court, to paying for expensive legal advice. The result is high drop-out rates in cases where women seek redress, especially on gender-based violence.

The thought provoking and colourful launching of report was attended by a large number of women right activists, representatives of civil society organisations, lawyer’s associations and law enforcing agencies. Speaker National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza was the chief guest on the occasion.

Others who spoke at the event included Federal Ombudsperson for Harassment Act Mussarat Hilali, President Lawyers for Human Rights Zia Awan, AIG Islamabad Ehsan Sadiq and Country Director UN Women Alice Shakleford.

The speakers stressed the need for collaborative efforts to create an enabling environment for women in pursuit justice. They pointed out that enough legislation has been formulated in Pakistan for women in past few decades but the real issue is the effective implementation of these laws. They also demanded elimination of discriminatory laws.

Besides formal speeches made by the guests, the event included an interactive session with the stakeholders and poetry recitation by UN Gender Expert Salman Asif who read some of the very fine verses by eminent social worker Bilqees Edhi urging everyone to feel for women in distress and help them.

Another unique feature was the audio of inspiring stories of women survivors played for the guests. These women faced extreme forms of violence against women but were brave enough to fight back and become a role model for others.

Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza said that no system can claim to be democratic and participatory if it fails to include and address the issues concerning its women. She said that women’s pursuit for justice stretches back beyond recorded time to the myths and legends told by ancient seers in all cultures and civilisations.

“Societies were always hesitant in accepting them on a par with their men. It is high time that we make our society realize that gender roles, inequities and power imbalances are not a ‘natural’ result of biological differences, but determined by the systems and cultures in which we live.”

She highlighted the efforts of Pakistan People’s Part to bring women in the lime light at every level. She said that in the last three years of its 5-year tenure, the women Parliamentarians ran 60 per cent of the business in the National Assembly and the government has passed 77 bills in which more than a dozen relate to women and children.

“Laws hold a critical balance in shaping societies although they alone cannot bring a change in mindsets. No government, no matter how democratic in nature, can bring about a revolution on its own if it is not backed by a strong and committed public opinion,” she opined.

She said that Pakistan will hold the seventh meeting of the Women Speakers of Parliaments around the world in November this year, where the women speakers will focus on making parliaments more gender sensitive. At the Saarc Speakers Conference in Delhi, she has also proposed the creation of a Saarc Parliament which could allow the Parliamentarians of the region to jointly address issues of social injustice, the speeding up of the MDGs and the realization of an equity-based gender-balanced mutually beneficial Saarc community.

Saturday, July 30, 2011
National Commission on the Status of Women-Pakistan
Government of Pakistan
Phone: +92-51-9224875,9209885

‘Pakistan Blasphemy Laws: A Fact Sheet’ by Mansoor Raza

The ghost of the draconian Blasphemy Laws, as enacted by Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, haunts the present democratic set up as much as it does the Christian, Ahmadis and other minorities of Pakistan. Despite the consensus that there should be a total repeal of the Laws, the nuisance value of ultra-rightists prevents the Party of the Poor from any daring action that would accrue anger of the mullahs. The enactment and acceptance of Blasphemy Laws is a result of the evolution of Pakistani state and before going into that it would be interesting to look at some basic facts about the Laws:

1. The Blasphemy Laws in the Pakistan Penal Code are rooted in the Indian Penal Code of 1860 and they were introduced through Sections 295-B and 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code during the dictatorial regime of General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq. The newly-introduced sections aimed to protect holy personages of only one religion, i.e. Islam, which is the state religion. Section 295-C which was added by an act of the parliament in 1986, and made it a criminal offence to use derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Under Section 295-C, the offence was punishable with life imprisonment or death.

2. Between 1927 (year in which British colonial rulers introduced section 295-A) and 1986 there had been less than ten reported cases of blasphemy. However, 1986 onwards as many as 4,000 cases have been reported. Between 1988 and 2005, Pakistani authorities charged 647 people with offences under the Blasphemy Laws. Fifty percent of the people charged were non-Muslims. More than 20 people have been murdered for alleged blasphemy. Two third of all the cases are in the Punjab Province of Pakistan

3. The province of the Punjab is home to 81 percent of Pakistnan’s Christians. The seven districts that have contributed most to the blasphemy cases are Lahore, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Kasur, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala and Toba Tek Singh. The total population of these districts is 25 million, of which five percent are Christian; 50 percent of total Christian population of Pakistan of 2.0 million lives in these seven districts; majority of Christians in the Punjab live in rural areas.

4. According to 1998 Census, the population of religious minorities, in Pakistan, is around six million or 3.7 percent of the total population. The Hindus and Christians constitute 83 percent of the religious minorities in Pakistan, with Hindus outnumbering Christians by a small margin and 93 percent of Hindus live in Sindh.

5. An analysis of 361 cases of blasphemy offences registered by the police between 1986 and 2007 shows that as many as 49 percent cases were registered against non-Muslims. The cases against non-Muslims should be contrasted with the population of religious minorities which is not more than four percent of Pakistan’s population. Moreover, 26 percent cases against Ahmadis and 21 percent cases against Christians are not in line with their ratio in total population, which is 0.22 and 1.58 percent of the total population respectively. The number of persons nominated in 361 cases was 761. Out of 361 total cases, more than two-thirds cases were found to be from the Punjab, 15 percent from Sindh and 5 percent from the NWFP.

6. Out of 35 districts in the Punjab, police in seven districts – all in central Punjab – had registered 10 or more cases during 1986 and 2007.

7. Forty one percent of all cases in terms of religion were registered. Nearly 65 percent of cases registered were against Christians, and Muslims were nominated in 43 percent cases.

8. A total of 104 cases reached the higher courts between 1960 and 2007, out of which 91 cases were heard by the High Courts in Pakistan and the AJK and the rest by the apex courts (Supreme Court and Shariat Court). In as many as 41 cases, section 295-C was invoked.

9. A study of data and cases study, suggest that there are three types of blasphemy cases:
i) cases which are mere accusations and are lodged to settle scores;
ii) cases which are based on expressing one’s faith, and
iii) cases in which the accused are known to be suffering from some kind of mental illness.

10. It is important to note that the laws introduced by General Zia-ul Haq, which were discriminatory against women and non-Muslims, were largely opposed by women rights organizations. It is unfortunate that some Christian political leadership continued to adjust their positions and sometimes came to defend these laws publicly.

Factors that paved way for the acceptance of the Blasphemy Laws and their endorsement (by a particular segment of the society) are rooted in the evolution of the state of Pakistan and the constitutional development, in a certain manner. Due to the demographic change that accompanied the partition of India in 1947, the areas that now comprise Pakistan changed from a multi-religious society to a mono-religious society.

The social changes that are underway due to urbanization are taking on the traditional class structure that defined neatly the occupational distribution of classes and castes throughout centuries. The resulting fissures are creating tension between the groups and the warring sections are in search of ideologies to justify their struggle; a mere expression of tussle of aspirations.

Traditionally, minorities found refuge in liberal politics and supported the left leaning parties, but lately the liberal parties are losing fast the electoral battle in the decisive constituencies of the province of the Punjab. It is noted with great caution that the demography of Christians is heavily skewed in the Punjab, where the PPP is showing steady signs of involuntary withdrawal. The replacing of the PML (N) by the PPP will have an adverse impact on the future of minorities in the province.

It is safely concluded that religious aspirations of state are used by adventurists to fight an otherwise war of economic aspirations. The Pakistan People’s Party failed to comprehend the evolving new realities and thus lost fast in the electoral battle grounds of the Punjab.

In light of the above-mentioned balance sheet the total repeal of the Blasphemy Laws is only possible through mass awareness, organized campaigns and galvanizing progressive religious leaders for the greater cause of protection of humanity. The state needs to remain neutral and secular in its policies.

Mansoor Raza is a researcher who presented this paper at the Reference for Salmaan Taseer organised by CFD in Karachi on Jan 17, 2011.

First Published May 5, 2011, Citizens for Democracy


ASIA: Unabated violence against women impedes social change

March 8, 2011

A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission on the occasion of the International Women’s Day

ASIA: Unabated violence against women impedes social change

For 100 years now, a strong struggle for equal rights between genders has been taking place in the world. International women’s day is the opportunity to celebrate women’s economic, political and social achievements. It is the day to acknowledge the enormous potential of women in service of the prosperity of their communities and the core societal role they have to play for peace and political and economic development in their countries. Having educated and empowered women actively participating in every sphere of the public life of their country has for long been acknowledged as the key to development and prosperity in all the countries of the world. Discrimination against women has been formally recognized as a violation of human dignity and as riding roughshod over the concept that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights. Nevertheless, in numerous corners of the Asian region, direct and indirect violence and discrimination, under various forms continue to oppress women and prevent them from fully achieving their potential for change. Through 2010 and since the beginning of 2011, the Asian Human Rights Commission has been aware of numerous cases of such oppression. The diversity of Asia clearly illustrates that the formal recognition of equal rights without discrimination based on gender and criminalization of gender-based violence has failed to materialize in practice. Violence against women is sometimes justified through the evocation of tradition and religion and is exploiting the weak rule of law framework of numerous Asian countries to the advantage of the male-dominated society. It is used to control the behaviour of women, prevent them from freely taking part in public debate and continuously undermines the expression of women’s potential for change in Asia.

The Global Gender Gap Index of 2010 offered a clear overview of the disparities which exists in the Asian region with regard to the country level of advancement in terms of equality of rights and opportunities between genders. The Philippines and Sri Lanka rank respectively as 9th and 16th out of 134 countries in terms of gender equality, mostly due to the achievements of those two countries in reducing the gender-gap in education and health while Pakistan ranks the third worst country in the world in terms of gender equality. Thailand ranks 57th globally but ranks among the best countries in terms of maternal health and 36th in terms of economic opportunity for the women, with women representing the majority (51%) of the non-agricultural labour force, a rarity in the Asian context. The gender situation in Bangladesh and Indonesia is less optimistic: ranking respectively as 82th and 87th. The scores of both countries are increased only by the fact that they have women as their head of State, but their scores in terms of economic empowerment, access to education and health are very low. Closing this ranking are India (112th), Nepal (114th) and Pakistan (132th) with extremely important discrepancies between genders in all spheres of life.

In a number of Asian countries patriarchal cultural and religious traditions are invoked to systematically control women’s lives, their free will and even their bodies and hamper the full realization of their potential. In India, discrimination rooted in gender prejudices that foster stereotypical roles for the girl child and women is one of the reasons for the poor state of affairs of women. The concept of purity and submission superimposed upon women by cultural and religious practices, restrict their access to education and limits their freedom to choose the employment of their choice. The continuing practice of demanding and paying dowry, though prohibited by the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 limits the parents’ interest to educate a girl child.

Another example is the common practice in some communities in Pakistan that at the time of birth of a girl, she is declared engaged to be married to a boy which will prevent the ‘engaged’ girl from freely choosing her future as her fate is sealed from the day of her birth.

Similarly, honour killings remain a strong issue in South Asia. The women being seen as carrying the honour of the family can be murdered if a family or the community considers that she is following a path different to what was expected of her. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 5,000 women die each year in honour killings worldwide. However, the actual number is likely to be much higher as the cases largely go unreported.

Another example of religion or tradition being invoked by the community to control the lives of the women was seen in a case reported in August 2010 from Sri Lanka. A husband was forced by community members of the local mosque to sign a document agreeing to the punishment of his 17-year-old wife for having given birth to a child as a result of an extra-marital relationship. The woman, who was sick, was then beaten 100 times with the hard centre stem of a coconut frond.

Similarly, in Bangladesh, the Committee on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women expressed its concern in February 2011 that “despite the High Court’s decision that the extra-judicial punishments, fatwas, are illegal, there are reports of illegal penalties being enforced through shalish rulings to punish “anti-social and immoral behaviour”. In January 2011, a 14-year-old girl was “lashed to death” following a punishment given by a village court consisting of elders and clerics under the Shari’ah law, after being accused of having an affair with a married man.

In some countries the “traditions” invoked to maintain the women in a state of oppression benefit from the support of the authorities, like in Pakistan, or are even reflected in the legal framework like in Aceh where some of the criminal laws are based on the misinterpretation of the Shari’ah. A 2010 report by Human Rights Watch “Policing morality” on the law related to “seclusion” which makes association with a unmarried member of the opposite sex a criminal offense punishable by caning and a fine and to public dress requirement, two of the five Shari’ah laws in Aceh, revealed that these laws are abusively implemented by the authorities and document cases of aggressive interrogation, including beating of the suspects, forcing the suspects to marry and forcing women and girls to submit to virginity examinations as part of the investigation.

The Jirga courts in Pakistan oppress women’s rights and, though illegal, are tolerated or even supported by the authorities. Jirgas deny the equality between women and men, apply corporal or capital punishments upon women whose behaviour is seen as deviating from traditional standards and lack standards of fair trial. In July 2010, a woman was condemned to stoning to death by a Jirga merely for having been seen as walking alone with a man. In May 2010, a young couple was marked for death by a Jirga that included police officers because the woman had denied a suitor selected by her family in favour of her husband, who came from outside of the tribe. Despite an eventual Sindh High Court ruling in favour of the couple, community members and police continued to persecute the couple and the groom’s family. Legal and social complicity results in near impunity for those who continue to abide by the Jirga rather than law and perpetrates honour killings. The government has not been seen to take any sort of action to pronounce the Jirgas’ ruling as illegal and to dismantle them by taking action against the individuals engaged in running them.

Those cultural and religious representations remain strong obstacles in the way of women who want to take an active part in the future of their communities. Even in countries which are trying to achieve a 33% representation of women in the Parliament, such target remains very hard to reach; Nepal being the only Asian country to have achieved that goal so far. Women seeking emancipation are the target of those who want to maintain the patriarchal order of the society and see female emancipation as a direct threat to their own power and social status.

Acid attacks in Bangladesh and Pakistan against women who dare to say “no” to a marriage or a relationship are a case in point. Threats and harassment against women human rights defenders in Nepal further show the society resistance to those seen as challenging the established social order.

In some countries, women are considered as simple chattel that can be exchanged to maintain the relationship between families; to settle conflicts or a commodity that can, more simply, be sold. In February 2011, the AHRC documented a case of marriage which was opposed by the 70-year-old father of the bride in Pakistan. As “compensation” for the marriage and the loss of his daughter, the father demanded the barter of a girl from the groom’s family.

In South Asia, cases of dowry disputes and dowry deaths also reveal the value placed upon a woman’s life. These are cases where the groom’s family claims that they had not received enough material benefits to accept the woman into the family. Those claims may result in assault, mental and physical harassment of the bride, and ultimately, in her killing.

Further, Asia continues to suffer from a massive phenomenon of trafficking in women. In many cases the authorities cooperate with trafficking rings and brothels were women are kept, effectively imprisoned for sex work. Due to the irregular immigration of trafficked women, the victims often have no legal status in the country where they are trafficked to and risk detention should they try to escape or lodge a complaint with the local authorities. In Thailand, sex workers are particularly at risk of exploitation and stigmatisation with cases of arrest and humiliation commonly reported, while rape cases of women sex workers are not properly dealt with.

All the cases mentioned above clearly show a pattern that, although the attitude of state actors is primordial in dealing with cases of violence against women, the functioning of law enforcement agencies in practice reflects the patriarchal values of the society and further contribute to oppress the women. The systematic failures of the criminal justice systems have been exploited by perpetrators to deny justice and protection to the victims of gender-based violence and to maintain the women in a situation of vulnerability. For instance, in almost all the countries in Asia, authorities at all levels of the judicial system have denied assistance and justice to rape victims and protected the perpetrators, resulting in a de facto “decriminalisation of rape”. Victims of rape and gender-based violence seeking legal redress face harassment, threats from the authorities and community members and often the courage required to confront such obstacles to get justice is only rewarded with impunity for the perpetrators. This starts from the moment the victim makes the complaint of rape. In almost all of Asia there are incidents of police officers refusing to accept the complaint, forcing the victim to negotiate a settlement with the perpetrators or in specific countries even to marry the perpetrators.

Collusion between the perpetrators of rape and police officers is common. Further, the social stigma surrounding rape and women filing cases in the police station and economic dependency of women are the most important of all obstacles hampering the women’s access to redress.

In a case in Nepal last July, the police took the rape victim in custody twice at the demand of the perpetrators which resulted in having all the physical traces of rape disappear. In Sri Lanka, in January 2011, the family of a 23-year-old physically and mentally disabled rape victim was forced by the police to accept monetary compensation from the perpetrator as a settlement for the case. In Pakistan, in December 2010, a woman was raped by a local gangster with the help of two police informers and was forced by the police to withdraw her complaint. In India, women face additional risks at the hands of law enforcement officers than their male counterparts due to the risk of sexual harassment and even custodial rape. In a case reported on 1 February this year, once again from Assam state, the police officers assaulted and sexually abused a woman and her mother when the officers came to their house in search of a male suspect. In this case too, the police have refused to register a case against the accused despite written complaints.

These cases, from different corners of Asia, illustrate that protecting the right of women is intrinsically linked to the state of rule of law in the country, in particular to a sensitisation of the police and to the introduction of accountability within the ranks of law enforcement agencies.

All over Asia, the situation of women belonging to communities which are traditionally marginalized and discriminated against deserves a special mention as those women will be exploited at several levels with even less access to judiciary and state institutions than women belonging to the dominant majority in the country.

In India and Nepal for instance, women belonging to the Dalit or tribal communities are more vulnerable to rape as their lives and dignity are seen as less valuable and they have less access to judicial institutions. Nepal has also recently seen an increase in cases of isolated women, often widows and often from the Dalit community, being trashed, violently beaten, tortured and forced to eat human excreta after being accused of “witchcraft” by villagers. The Women’s Rehabilitation Center (WOREC) has documented 82 such cases within two years. In Pakistan, women from religious minorities are targeted, abducted and forcibly married to convert them to Islam. It is estimated that 20 to 25 Hindu girls are abducted each month and forcibly converted to Islam. In March 2010, the family of a 17-year-old Hindu girl who was kidnapped by three influential Muslim brothers and raped by one of them, was pressured into accepting her wedding to her rapist and her conversion to Islam by a jirga. Judicial and police inaction went as far as arresting the victim’s father under a fake case and intense pressure from ruling party members and local landlords prevented the family from seeking further assistance.

The targeting of women from marginalized castes or classes or religious and ethnic minorities is not an aimless and insignificant act; on the contrary it has calculated implications and impact. Raping or abusing the women aims at not only destroying the victim but also, through her, the community. Rape and violence against women has become an instrument of power in the hands of the dominant majority. The victimization of women from marginalized castes or classes contributes to the maintenance of power and the domination of “upper” classes or castes while the victimization of women from minorities, religious or ethnic, aims at destroying the whole structure of that community, integrating them into the “mainstream” majority through the destruction of their identity. This aspect is particularly evident in the case of Burma, where women from ethnic minorities are the target of systematic, state-induced campaigns of rape and other forms of sexual abuses by soldiers in order to “spread the blood” of the ethnic majority and to humiliate and oppress. “Licence to Rape”, a June 2002 report by the Shan Women’s Action Network documented 173 cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence, with 625 Shan girls and women victimized by Burmese soldiers from 1996 to 2001 and showed that rape was condoned as a weapon of war from the Burmese state in order to subjugate and control ethnic minorities. Documentation by women’s groups shows that such cases of rape; torture and killings of women continue unabated in other areas of ethnic conflict.

More generally speaking, women in areas of conflict suffer from specific abuses and often find themselves deprived of any legal remedy; in the South of Thailand, women are facing unrest and loss but have not been provided any kind of remedies. The Victim Protection Scheme is inappropriately implemented, which deprives the victims seeking justice with any kind of remedy. In Nepal, during the decade-long conflict, the women faced gender-based violence and sexual violence but such victims have remained invisible and absent of the government relief programmes and compensation schemes for conflict victims, a joint report by Advocacy Forum and the International Center for Transitional Justice found.

Gender bias is also visible in larger issues like poverty and malnutrition. For instance, in South Asia and South-East Asia, in both urban and rural poverty, often the direct victim of poverty and malnutrition is the women and/or the girl child. In most cases reported by the AHRC, the pattern shows that it is the mother and the girl child which face the worst brunt of poverty.

Women therefore suffer from multi-layered, multi-facetted discrimination and forms of violence in Asia. The malfunctioning of the rule of law framework is exploited by those who want to prevent women from playing a major role in the public sphere.

Nevertheless, throughout Asia, women continue to gather, organise and defend their rights and the rights of their community. The fight of those thousands of anonymous women not only contributes to the promotion of the “rights of women” but also to the advancement of democracy in their community as a whole.

In countries where reservations were made to ensure the representation of women in elected bodies, especially at the local level, women have been able to make use of such arenas to raise concrete issues of tremendous importance for the community, such as access to water.

In Nepal, women have played a tremendously important role in the popular uprising of 2006 which lead to the end of the conflict and the establishment of democracy in the country. Similarly in India, it is a woman, Ms. Iron Chanu Sharmila of Manipur, who has today become the beacon of hope and peace. Sharmila has undergone a ten-year-long fast in protest against the ongoing violence and impunity in India, committed both by the state and non-state actors. The state attempted to stifle her protest by keeping Sharmila in arbitrary and solitary detention in a hospital room for the past ten years in which she is force fed through a nasal tube. In Burma, it is also the fight of a woman, Aung San Suu Kyi that has become the incarnation of the hopes for peace, human rights and democracy of the people. In Sri Lanka, women activists and lawyers are taking a great role in the fight against torture and support to the victims. In Pakistan, it is a woman parliamentarian who had the courage to deposit a law in the Parliament seeking to amend the Blasphemy law under which religious minorities face persecutions.

On Women International Day, the AHRC calls for comprehensive action, from all forces of the society, to create the conditions for women to fully express their potential for better change.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Pakistani Christian woman falls victim to blasphemy laws

February 24, 2011

A Christian woman in Faisalabad has been accused of blasphemy following a dispute over land. According to our colleagues in Pakistan, Agnes Bibi has been arrested and detained by the police. It is believed she was in competition for a valuable piece of land with local Muslims and that they accused her of blaspheming against Islam when they failed to take hold of it.

Her arrest has spread a fresh wave of fear among Christians in Faisalabad, who like Christians across Pakistan remain tense after a judge sentenced mother-of-five Asia Bibi to death for blasphemy last November. Asia remains in jail where she is awaiting the start of an appeal hearing at the Lahore High Court, which has been delayed due to threats being made against the judges.

Faisalabad is also the city in which two Christian brothers were shot dead by Islamic militants outside a courthouse where they had just attended a hearing on the blasphemy charges against them. Their killers are still at large.

CLAAS UK Coordinator Nasir Saeed said: “We are greatly concerned for the welfare of Agnes Bibi as we have already seen the extremes to which blasphemy charges can go with the case of Asia Bibi. She is fighting a desperate battle to have her death sentence overturned and extremists are offering rewards for anyone who takes her life if she is released. This is the reality facing victims of the blasphemy law. We ask that the charges be dropped and that Agnes be released from prison immediately.”

Peasant mass rally in Okara Khurd

Life threat to peasant leaders

At a mass rally of the peasants in Renalkhurd on 10th January, several peasants’ leaders spoke about the life threats they are facing at the hand of a military brigadier of Military Farms Okara. The rally was organized by Anjman Mozareen Punjab on the occasion of the 9th death anniversary of Bashir Ahmad killed by the firing of the rangers in 2002.

A rally attended by few thousands tenants started from the Renalkhurd GT Road blocked the roads for some time and later walked through the main city and reached at Military Estate Renalkhurd. The tenants were raising slogans against the military generals who have been allotted agriculture land in 2007 by Pervaiz Ilahi government. “Cancel the allotment to military generals, Death or ownership, land to the tillers, Down with feudalism, capitalism, will fight against military operation in Renalkhurd” were some of the slogans raised at the rally.

Later a public meeting started at Military Estate in Renakhurd under chairmanship of Nadeem Ashraf, vice president AMP. Mehr Abdul Sattar general secretary Anjamn Mozareen Punjab told the gathering that those threatening to kill should know that when we started this movement in 2000, we knew that our lives were at risks under a military dictatorship, however, we were not afraid then and we will not be silenced now. Malik Salim Jhakkar told the tenants that this historic movement of the tenants can be eliminated by a few killings of the leaders, it has spread to every home and we are warning the brigadier responsible that if any one of us is hurt, there will be strong reaction by all the peasants on different military farms.

Farooq Tariq spokesperson Labour Party Pakistan said that the military administration is trying their best to evacuate the land from the peasants and are threatening to kill them and sending them anonymous threat letters, this will not be tolerated and peasants across Pakistan will protest if any action is taken against any leader or activists of the movement. He demanded that all the agriculture land under cultivation should be formally handed over to the tenants and the landless peasants.

Nazli Javed member federal committee LPP, Baba Jan president Progressive Youth Front Gilgit Baltestan, Ihsan Ali general secretary Labour Party Pakistan Gilgit Baltestan, Jalal Lala leader of LPP Swat, Shabir Sajid president AMP Pakpattan and several other spoke on the occasion and expressed their solidarity with AMP movement for land rights.

Report by Noor Nabi

Massive peasant rally against land grabing by military generals

A picture of peasants taking the roads in Renalakhurd (70 kilometer from Lahore) against land grabbing by military generals. Several thousand of peasants are protesting today against allotment of agriculture land to the military generals. They are demanding cancellation of allotment of the land.

In an hour, we will reach the main venue of the public rally organized by Anjamam Mozareen Punjab on the 9th death anniversary of Bashir Ahmad, first martyr of our movement.

Sent on BlackBerry by Farooq Tariq to SPN Newsletter

‘Conviction rate merely one to two per cent’

Tuesday, January 06, 2009
By our correspondent


The conviction rate in violence against women in Pakistan is not more than one to two per cent, Aurat Foundation Resident Director Anis Haroon said during the launch of a report about violence against women in Sindh in the last quarter of 2008.

“Out of 403 cases identified, 64 women and 19 men were killed in karo-kari (honour killing) in Sindh during the last quarter of 2008. Twenty-two women faced murder attempts, 60 women were kidnapped and 32 were injured. There were nine cases of domestic violence, 33 women committed suicide, 32 women attempted suicide, 19 women were raped, 12 were gang-raped, 11 faced sexual assault and 40 became victims of custodial violence. There were three cases of acid burning, eight women faced violence in the name of customary practices and eight were sold in the province,” Haroon said.

The report pointed out that despite the ban imposed by the Sindh High Court (SHC), as many as 30 jirgas were held in the province on women-related issues and 17 women and girls were given as compensation to settle tribal conflicts. Six cases were registered against jirga holders and parents and some of them were arrested.

The report said that the number of registered First Information Reports (FIRs) on violence against women during the period was 198. However, in 125 cases, FIRs could not be registered while in 31 cases, the status of FIRs could not be ascertained.

The report said that most of the accused were male members of the women’s families. Sixty-three of them were husbands, 65 were close relatives, five were brothers, four were cousins, two were uncles, and three were parents. Nineteen police personnel, five people persons from same tribes, 25 area residents, five neighbours, one son-in-law, five robbers, two lawyers, 10 members of rival tribes and five sons were also involved. In 83 cases, the relationship of the accused with the victim could not be ascertained.

In Karachi alone, 194 women and girls were raped or sexually assaulted during the last nine months. All these cases were reported to medico-legal officers (MLOs) but they were not reported in the media because in most cases, their FIRs were not established.

“Cases are not investigated if FIRs have not been established,” Haroon said. “There should be a one-window facility in rape cases since evidence is lost if a woman has to be produced at several places.”

She went on to say that police posts should be established in hospitals so that FIRs could be established there. Haroon said that the Aurat Foundation was not in favour of capital punishment, and other steps should be taken to punish criminals.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) MPA Humaira Alwani said that as the fourth pillar of the State, the media was playing a positive role in highlighting the cases of violence against women. She said that every civil hospital in the province should have a female MLO. She agreed that women police stations should play a proactive role in apprehending people involved in violence against women.

Nusrat Saher Abbasi, an MPA from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said that Pakistan has entered the 21st century but sadly enough “we were still witnessing violence against women”. She said that women have been allocated 33 per cent representation in assemblies and even though the PPP chairperson late Benazir Bhutto had zero tolerance for violence against women but the present government has failed to implement laws on this issue.

Father asked to pay maintenance to daughter

Staff Report

LAHORE: Justice Ali Akbar Qureshi of the Lahore High Court (LHC) has directed one Maqsood Ali to pay Rs 2,000 per month as maintenance allowance to his 21-year-old daughter, Misbah Kausar.

The judge also held that Ali should bear all expenses of Misbah’s marriage.

The judge issued the directions on a petition by Ali, challenging a lower court order that he should pay maintenance allowance to his daughter.

The girl had filed a suit in April for recovery of the maintenance allowance from her father. Ali said that he had paid his former wife for the girl’s expenditures. He said that his daughter could not claim allowance as she was not inclined to live with him.

Justice Ali Akbar Qureshi doubled the allowance, and directed the father to pay it from now onward.

Familial Promises: ‘Honour’ Killers’ Code by Fauzia Rafiq

If ever you
set foot
outside this house
Smack you, I will

If ever you
cook any thing
I don’t like
Bash you, I will

If ever you
give birth to
a female child
Rap you, I will

If ever you
marry a man
of your choice
Smash you, I will

If ever you
ask for your
property rights
Whack you, I will

Pakistan close to bottom on global gender gap list

ISLAMABAD: The World Economic Forum (WEF) on Wednesday released the Global Gender Gap Report 2008 through its partner institute in Pakistan, the Competitiveness Support Fund (CSF).

According to the annual report, the social and economic empowerment of women is still very low in Pakistan and they are struggling for their livelihood and survival. Pakistan ranked 127th among 130 countries in this year’s Global Gender Gap ranking.

The report provides a comprehensive framework for assessing and comparing gender gaps in 92 percent of the world’s population this year. There are three basic underlying concepts of the report; it ranks countries according to gender equality rather than women empowerment; focuses on measuring gaps rather than levels and measures those gaps in outcome variables rather than input variables.

There are 14 gender gap indices, which focus on the economic participation and opportunities available to women, their educational attainment, health, survival and political empowerment.

Political empowerment: Pakistan ranked poorly in almost all categories in the report. It, however, fared better in empowering women politically, ranked 50th among 130 countries.

Norway: Norway leads the world in closing the gender gap, followed by Finland, Sweden and Iceland. Germany (11), the United Kingdom (13) and Spain (17) slipped down the ranking, but remained in the top 20. Netherlands (9), Latvia (10), Sri Lanka (12) and France (15) made significant gains.

Pakistan ranked 117th in both women’s literacy rate and workforce population, 115th in healthy life expectancy, 110th in enrolment in primary education, 60th in wage equality for similar work and fifth in years of a female head of state.

The CSF is a joint initiative of the United States Agency for International Trade and Development (USAID) and Pakistan’s Finance Ministry. It has been established to reposition Pakistan’s economy on a more globally competitive footing.

USAID’s support for the CSF is part of the $2.8 billion aid that the US government has provided to Pakistan since 2002 to improve the latter’s economic growth, education, health, governance and to reconstruct the areas affected by the October 2005 earthquake.

Staff report