National Assembly, Presidency turn orange against gender-based violence | The Express Tribune

The National Assembly and President House buildings turned orange on Wednesday to show solidarity with the global “16 Days of Activism” campaign against gender-based violence (GBV) and officially launch it in Pakistan.

Women parliamentarians from several political parties as well as representatives from the government, UN agencies and civil society also participated in the event and pledged to put in efforts for ending violence against women and girls in Pakistan, according to a statement issued by the UN Women Pakistan.

It said that the participants promised to play an active role in freeing the country from all forms of gender-based violence and discrimination and stand by and support survivors.

The event was jointly arranged by the Federal Women’s Parliamentary Caucus (WPC) and UN Women Pakistan to kick off the 16 Days of Activism against GBV, a global campaign that takes place each year from 25th of November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10th of December, International Human Rights Day, indicating that violence against women is the most pervasive violation of human rights worldwide.

The 16 days campaign is used as an organising strategy by individuals and organisations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls.

With the current Covid-19 pandemic situation, this year’s theme for the 16 days of activism against GBV is “Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!” The theme calls for prioritising support and funding to essential services for GBV prevention and response, especially in the Covid-19 situation, supporting women’s rights organisations working at the nexus of Covid-19 and GBV, declaring a national policy of zero tolerance for GBV with a concrete action plan, launching behaviour change social mobilisation campaigns, undertaking explicit measures to maintain services for survivors of GBV as essential during Covid-19 lockdowns, ensuring a continuum of adequate criminal justice response mechanisms, and collecting data with the aim to inform and improve GBV services and interventions.

National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser graced the event as the Chief Guest. Secretary Women’s Parliamentary Caucus (WPC) Munaza Hassan gave the welcome remarks at the start of the event. Resident Coordinator United Nations in Pakistan Julien Harneis addressed the event that was attended by parliamentarians, representatives of the government, UN agencies, civil society and media, both virtually and in-person at the National Assembly.

Qaiser, while addressing the event, said that the government is committed to end violence against women as a topmost priority. “It’s time to recognise the role of women and take substantial steps for ensuring equal participation of women in legislation,” he added.

He said that gender equality cannot be achieved without ending violence against women and girls. “Women need to be encouraged and motivated and the present government was committed for the protection of women’s rights and providing them a safe environment,” he said and added that in order to give women their due status, we also need to change the mindset and behaviour. “Joint efforts are needed to bring them into the mainstream.”

While giving welcome remarks, Secretary WPC Munaza Hassan said that the world was undergoing significant social, political, economic and environmental development, which leaves a deep mark on our people – especially women of every household.” With Covid-19 resurgence, the world retreats inside homes due to lockdowns, making the situation even worse for women. The escalation in already existing pandemic of violence against women is quite visible.”

Munaza said that the Constitution of Pakistan negates any discrimination on the basis of gender, adding that Articles 25(3) and 34 were the two most significant articles in favour of women. “Article25(3) states that nothing shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the protection of women,” she added.

She said that the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus has been at the forefront of improving legislations for the rights of women and we will continue our efforts along with our trusted partners. “The fact that we have women in key decision-making roles of national importance, leading portfolios of human rights, social safety, health, and climate change, guarantees women protection and representation at all levels.”

Julien Harneis appreciated the pledge taken by all participants during the event and expressed the hope that each person would follow through on this pledge in their lives to prevent gender-based violence from happening in all public and private settings.

He also commended the WPC’s role in promoting the agenda of women’s rights and leadership in the country.

While acknowledging that Pakistan has made great progress especially in the area of legislative and policy reform, the RC highlighted that there was a lot left to do for effective implementation of existing pro-women laws.

“The World Economic Forum places Pakistan at 151 out of 153 countries in its latest Global Gender Gap Report. But a positive sign is that women have around 24 per cent representation in both houses of the Parliament, and women parliamentarians contributed 33 per cent of the parliamentary business. With more women in power and decision-making, we can make great strides in advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls,” he added.

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