International Day for elimination of violence against women and gender marginalization in Pakistan

The UN System together with UN Women is joining hands with survivors, activists, decision-makers, and people from every walk of life, to shine a light on the need for funding, essential services, prevention and data that shapes better-informed responses.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, emerging data and reports from those on the front lines have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence has intensified.

The women of Pakistan bear the brunt of poor governance and the corruption of the social, political and economic systems which surround them. Women make up 48.54 % of the population of Pakistan, yet they are continuously marginalized and discriminated against by the middle class and feudal societies, and through political and social structures which are inherently misogynistic. Recently, eruptions of violence and rape in cities across the region have prompted new concerns that malicious factors are specifically targeting women and underage girls in their terror campaigns.

Violence against women is seen to be of no importance to the judiciary of Pakistan, particularly the lower judiciary. Women face numerous types of violence perpetuated by the state and its agents, including rape, gang rape, torture, registration of false cases of adultery, honour killing, Jirga (an illegal, parallel judicial system for the exchange of minor girls in land disputes,) burying alive or putting before dogs, acid throwing, no free choice of marriages, restriction of freedom of movement and expression, domestic violence, sexual harassment at the workplace, snatching of children, deprivation of property rights, disappearance after arrest and being used as sex slaves.

The main causes of this violence stem from a lack of proper investigative mechanisms by the police, and the presence of a strong feudal system, which contribute to the ultimate failure of the judicial system. In the urban centers of the country, the judiciary is indirectly under pressure from the landed aristocracy, as in the case of rural areas where there is no question of women getting relief (not even bail after arrest) from the lower judiciary.

16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence

The UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence against Women campaign is marking the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence (25 November to 10 December 2020) under the global theme, “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”. UN Women’s Generation Equality campaign is amplifying the call for global action to bridge funding gaps, ensure essential services for survivors of violence during the COVID-19 crisis, focus on prevention, and collection of data that can improve life-saving services for women and girls. The campaign is part of UN Women’s efforts for Beijing+25 and building up to launch bold new actions and commitments to end violence against women at the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico and France in 2021.

This year is like no other. Even before COVID-19 hit, violence against women and girls had reached pandemic proportions. Globally, 243 million women and girls were abused by an intimate partner in the past year. Meanwhile, less than 40 per cent of women who experience violence report it or seek help.

As countries implemented lockdown measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, violence against women, especially domestic violence, intensified – in some countries, calls to helplines have increased five-fold. In others, formal reports of domestic violence have decreased as survivors find it harder to seek help and access support through the regular channels. School closures and economic strains left women and girls poorer, out of school and out of jobs, and more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, forced marriage, and harassment.

In April 2020, as the pandemic spread across the world, the UN Secretary-General called for “peace at home”, and 146 Member States responded with their strong statement of commitment. In recent months 135 countries have strengthened actions and resources to address violence against women as part of the response to COVID-19. Yet, much more is needed. 

Today, although the voices of activists and survivors have reached a crescendo that cannot be silenced or ignored, ending violence against women will require more investment, leadership and action. It cannot be sidelined; it must be part of every country’s national response, especially during the unfolding COVID-19 crisis.

For the 16 Days of Activism, UN Women handed over the mic to survivors, activists and UN partners on the ground, to tell the story of what happened after COVID-19 hit. Read and share stories, get inspired by activists who are making a difference every single day, and find out how you can take action.

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