December 4, 2023

Staff Report


LAHORE

‘16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence’ is a global campaign led annually by UN Women. It begins with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25 and ends with International Human Rights Day on December 10.

During these 16 days, communities around the world band together to raise awareness of gender-based violence (GBV), and call to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls (VAWG).

This year’s theme is ‘Investing to End Violence against Women and Girls‘, with the aim of ending violence and oppression against them in every country and culture.

How did it start?

On November 25, 1960, sisters Patria, Minerva and María Teresa Mirabal – staunch critics of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic – were killed and their bodies dumped at the bottom of a cliff by Trujillo’s secret police.

The Mirabal sisters, also known as "Las Mariposas" or "The Butterflies"
The Mirabal sisters, also known as “Las Mariposas” or “The Butterflies”. From Left to right: Patria, Minerva and María Teresa.

The Butterflies (as they were referred to by their followers) became symbols of feminist resistance. To commemorate these women, November 25 was declared International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in Latin America in 1980, which was later formally recognised by the United Nations in 1999 as an international marker.

In support of this initiative, the UN launched the campaign ‘UNiTE by 2030’ which runs parallel to 16 Days of Activism as a multi year effort to put an end to violence against women and girls around the world.

What is ‘Gender-Based Violence’?

Gender-based violence (GBV) is often associated with the physical and sexual forms of violence against women. However, these forms of violence are only one indicator of a wide range of sexist and misogynist challenges women face in their daily lives.

To completely understand the scope of violence against women, one must consider factors such as gender, sexuality, race, class and ethnicity, among many others. It may include threats of violence, coercion and manipulation, in addition to child marriage, female genital mutilation and ‘honour’ crimes.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a serious violation of human rights and a life-threatening health and protection issue – UNHCR

Where does Pakistan stand?

Considering the overall situation of women in Pakistan, it has become more important to promote such activities.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, physical and sexual violence, honor killings and forced or early marriages make Pakistan one of the worst countries for gender discrimination. In a list of 146 countries, the Report ranked Pakistan 145, the second lowest after Afghanistan. Pakistan also ranked 161st out of 191 countries according to the Human Development Report’s 2022 Gender Inequality Index.

According to the Asia and the Pacific Policy Society, approximately 27 percent of women in Pakistan experience intimate partner or domestic violence in their lifetime.

Do we have proper laws to end GBV?

In the recent past, due to a burgeoning global call for women’s equality and protection as well as shifting societal attitudes, Pakistan has enacted several laws for the protection of women and girls against GBV. These include the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Act of 2021, the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act of 2010, the Enforcement of Women’s Property Act of 2020, and the Domestic Violence against Women (Prevention and Protection) Act in all four provinces.

However, despite the enactment of these laws and continued efforts to bring in further protective legislation, incidents of violence against women continue to be reported in greater frequency than ever before. Experts point to misogynist practices rampant, and continually call for awareness and education efforts to reform mindsets and customs.

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