20,000 cases of domestic trafficking reported in 2018: FIA

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ISLAMABAD: At least 20,000 cases of domestic trafficking were reported in 2018 with 92 per cent of the cases involving women, an official of Federal Investigation Agency revealed in a seminar on Tuesday.

The seminar was jointly organized by United Nationa Women Pakistan, National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) and Kashf Foundation under the title: “Together to combat trafficking of women and girls”, said a press release issued here.

“Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by human trafficking,” the official said, adding that global estimates indicate that women and girls may constitute up to “80 percent of persons trafficked, with more than 60 percent of those trafficked coming from the Asia region.”

“Most of the evidence on trafficking in Pakistan is anecdotal, while studies have been conducted at different levels, the number of girls and women trafficked for domestic labour, forced marriages or sexual exploitation is very difficult to ascertain from these reports,” he added.

However, he said that available data indicate that traffickers are not always strangers but can be family members, friends or acquaintances.

He said, victims of trafficking were often lured on the pretext of better employment, marriage, better economic prospects or were kidnapped from outside their homes or public places. The age of women and girls who fall prey to traffickers ranges from two years to fifty years.

He noted that Pakistani women were not only being trafficked from poverty-stricken areas to urban centres but also from big cities like Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad to southern Punjab and Balochistan.

Recently there have also been reports of young Pakistani women being trafficked outside the country on the pretext of marriage. It is clear that the scale of the issue is immense and needs to be tackled at all levels, the official remarked.

While delivering his welcome address, Jamshed Kazi, Country Representative UN Women Pakistan, said, “When we prioritise protection of women’s rights as human rights and develop strategies to combat violence against women, we encounter various challenges. One of these challenges is (the) trafficking of women and girls, which rarely gets the attention it deserves.”

He said, “In order for Pakistan to successfully tackle this threat, we need to work towards changing the underpinning social norms and behaviours in a transformative way, which would lead to the adoption of new behaviours and result in social change.”

“One such initiative that is being supported by UN Women in Pakistan is a drama serial on the trafficking of women in girls in partnership with NCSW and Kashf Foundation, which is currently being developed. It is often seen that the impact of an intervention lies in how its story is narrated, one of the reasons behind this is people look at drama characters as role models,” he added.

The seminar was attended by government officials, diplomats, civil society representatives and media persons.

Two panel discussions were arranged during the seminar. The first discussion was on the topic of “Trafficking of women and girls in Pakistan – a discussion on the issue, legislative framework, and what is being done to address it”

Panellists for this session were Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson National Commission on the Status of Women, Dr Riffat Sardar, Chairperson Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Commission on the Status of Women, Riaz Janjua, from Anti Human Trafficking Circle, Federal Investigation Authority (FIA), and Maliha Zia Lari, lawyer and human rights activist, Legal Aid Society Karachi. The discussion was moderated by Moneeza Hashmi, Creative Media Head Kashf Foundation Lahore.

The second panel discussion focused on “Shaping Mindsets Through Media”. Roshaneh Zafar, Managing Director Kashf Foundation, Moneeza Hashmi, Amina Mufti, Writer & Dramatist, and Saman Ahsan, Portfolio Manager, Governance, Human Rights & Ending Violence Against Women, UN Women Pakistan were the panellists of this discussion which was moderated by famous TV host Tauseeq Haider.