Rise of trafficking and domestic violence against women: How to stop it?

The cases of trafficking and domestic violence clearly indicate that women are the most vulnerable segment of society despite some specific laws to protect them. In 2018, 20, 000 cases of trafficking took place and 92 per cent of them were related to women. The situation demands attention and careful policy to be countered as soon as possible to save women.

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News Analysis |

In a shocking development, a report revealed that in the year 2018, around 20, 000 cases of human trafficking and domestic violence occurred in Pakistan. 92 per cent of the cases, said experts, were related to women and girls. Women’s rights activists and experts focused on finding out ways to counter challenges women face in Pakistan.

According to details, the seminar titled “Together to combat trafficking of women and girls” was organized by the UN Women Pakistan, in collaboration with the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) and Kashf Foundation.

Panelists for the seminar’s two sessions were Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women; Dr Riffat Sardar, Chairperson of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Commission on the Status of Women; Riaz Janjua of Anti-Human Trafficking Circle of Federal Investigation Authority (FIA), and Maliha Zia Lari, lawyer and human rights activist of Legal Aid Society, Karachi. Roshaneh Zafar, Managing Director of Kashf Foundation; Moneeza Hashmi, TV and media personality; Amina Mufti, dramatist; and Saman Ahsan, Portfolio Manager, Governance, Human Rights and Ending Violence against Women, UN Women Pakistan. TV host Tauseeq Haider was the moderator.

Honor killing has become almost a norm in many parts of Pakistan where women are treated as a commodity and whose sole responsibility is to be submissive guardians of men’s honor and ego. 

The seminar was informed that women and girls were disproportionately impacted by human trafficking problem, and global estimates indicated that women and girls constituted up to 80 per cent of people trafficked globally and more than 60 per cent of those trafficked belonged to Asia.

A representative of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) informed participants of the seminar that Pakistani women were not only being trafficked from poverty-stricken areas of southern Punjab and Balochistan, but also from major cities such as Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad. He said that recently some young Pakistani women were also trafficked to China on the pretext of marriage.

Experts were of the view that the issue was of immense importance and, therefore, it needed to be tackled at all levels, including by raising awareness among the masses.

Jamshed Kazi, the Country Representative of UN Women Pakistan, said that Pakistan had prioritized protection of women’s rights as human rights. He said that strategies had been developed to combat violence against women, but there were more challenges that need to be tackled. “One of these challenges is trafficking of women and girls, which rarely gets the attention it deserves. In order to successfully tackle this serious problem, we need to work towards changing social norms and behaviour in a transformative way,” he said.

Read more: Domestic violence, political participation: How can Pakistan protect its women?

He explained that in order to create awareness among the masses about this problem one such initiative was a TV drama series on trafficking of women and girls recently shown on a TV channel.

It is important to underscore that one in every three women in Punjab aged between 15 and 64 has suffered violence, according to a survey conducted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The survey funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) was the first of its kind in Pakistan, in collaboration with the Bureau of Statistics and Punjab Commission on the Status of Women.

Laws in Pakistan

It is pertinent to mention here that Pakistan has passed several laws to protect women across the country. But data shows that the cases are increasing with the passage of time despite the presence of a legal mechanism of protection. Experts now suggest looking into Pakistan’s social order and evaluating if it welcomes any law which heavily negatives some social values and cultural beliefs.

Violence against women, like rape, is a demonstration of power and strength. It should, therefore, be understood from a sociological perspective which helps understanding the context in which these incidents take place.

Although in the province of Punjab a law known as ‘The Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act 2015’ has been passed, yet there are numerous cases of violence against women in the province. A report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, put the number of honor killings between June 2017 and August 2018 at 737. The total number of such murders since the organization started keeping records in 2016 stands at 15,222. Honor killing has become almost a norm in many parts of Pakistan where women are treated as a commodity and whose sole responsibility is to be submissive guardians of men’s honor and ego.

Complex Concept of Power and Expression of Patriarchy

Experts and researchers suggest that in Pakistan’s social setting like many other developing polities there is a complex and rigid concept of power. Violence against women, like rape, is a demonstration of power and strength. It should, therefore, be understood from a sociological perspective which helps understanding the context in which these incidents take place. If a girl, for example, refuses a marriage proposal of a man or any other demand for any stated or unstated reasons she, by doing so, insults the man, and hurts his ego.

Countering Honor Killing, Domestic Violence

Dr.Rafia Zakria while proposing the solution argues that “the answer, perhaps, lies in changing the debate and acknowledging that trickle-down feminism is not working to end honor crimes. If communities are clinging to these horrific practices as a means of highlighting their continued power against a modernizing world, then the way ahead may hinge on change at the community level, involving the very people who are now wielding power in tribal jirgas and other grassroots justice mechanisms”.

Read more: Govt agencies, UNODC discuss ways to prevent human trafficking

Analysts believe that by developing a comprehensive mechanism of conflict resolution may help Pakistan to get rid of it. Prominent TV anchor and columnist Dr. Moeed Pirzada offered an interesting solution in an article he wrote almost two years ago. “Police, local political elite and lower judiciary – most of whom themselves are convinced of the value of ‘honor’ — need to be trained to understand these conflicts in the context of modernity and to be able to help institutions like Dar-ul-Amman, local councils and government-approved local bodies to find solutions. In most cases, these negotiations to find acceptability for situations that are locally unpalatable can take weeks or months and intervening layers of institutions have to be trained for that. This is what their capacity building is about.

And perhaps most importantly media and educational institutions need to change the narrative; with the help of celluloid and books we need to spread the message around that young adults have the right to make their choices in love – and this includes the right to make painful blunders. And there is no family ‘dishonor’ in matters of heart,” he argues.

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