Set us free! | Pakistan Today

Set us free!

The Charing Cross on The Mall once again in a state of commotion as protests blocked the road. While the nurses stole the larger part of the protest scenario, a quieter protest by women and human rights organisations was held on one side of the road.
South Asia Partnership, Aurat Foundation, HRCP, Homenet Pakistan, Kashf Foundation, Shirkat Gah, Godh and some members of the civil society took part in a candle light vigil marking a day for violence against women. Like every year, the 16 days of activism begun with this vigil, whose theme was “From Peace in the home to Peace in the world.”
Shabnum Rashid from SAP who was present at the vigil stated that violence against women was present in many forms in Pakistan and poor women belonging minority community were in the weakest position.
“It is about time we begin to protect women in the minorities,” she said. “To be poor, to be a woman and belong to a minority gives reason to be the weakest. Today in Pakistan the issue of forced conversion especially for Hindu women in Sindh is a serious problem that needs to be tackled.” She said these loopholes in the law were only promoting more violence against women. If a Muslim woman were kidnapped and forcibly married, would she be accepted by her family and community, question Rashid. In this case, she said, judiciary must understand the issues related to forced marriage and forced conversion.
“The Hindu Marriage Act must be passed,” she said. “The Anita case is one such case which reminds one of the brutalities happening with minority women here. Besides this, women cannot vote nor have an ID card if they do not have a marriage certificate. What kind of a system is this that does not recognise women?”
Naeema Malik also from SAP, stated that about 50 million women were currently missing from South Asia, due to different forms of violence. “These women are murdered, kidnapped, raped, killed for honour…even female foetuses are still being aborted and girl children are left to die on road sides. We dedicate these 16 days especially for such women.” For those attending the vigil, violence against women was clearly demonstrated with rotten eggs being thrown at the nurses in protest nearby. The 16 days of activism will focus on challenging militarism, stopping, violence in conflict zones, proliferation of small arms and their role in domestic violence, sexual and political violence and police violence.
White Ribbon launches a million signature day: A One million Signature Campaign has been launched to celebrate White Ribbon Day internationally marked for the eradication of violence against women to show solidarity with women and to show men’s pledge also to end violence against women.
Talking to reporters, country director of White Ribbon Campaign Pakistan Omer Aftab said to stop violence against women it was essential that men joined the movement and encourage norms of consent, respect and gender equality to challenge the unfair power relations which leads to violence, and promote gender roles based on non-violence and gender justice.
Omer further announced the launch of nationwide journalists engagement programme on gender sensitisation and violence against women and establishing the White Ribbon Media Alumni.
White Ribbon Campaign is a project of Women’s Empowerment Group and Vision 2015 working with men and boys to eradicate women’s human rights violations.

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