ISLAMABAD:(APS)November 30,2016-EVAW-G Alliance Pakistan” has organised a seminar on “South Asian Women’s Day” at National Press Club, Islamabad, Pakistan.Where after seminar they screened the Canadian Documentary, “Unveiled: The Kohistan Video Scandal”. The Chief Guest of the ceremony is Ms. Stacey Greene from Australian High Commission to Pakistan.
According to the details, on the occasion of South Asian Women’s day and in the context of 16 days of activism against Violence against Women and Girls, EVAWG, a Pakistani civil society network of numerous women and girls’ rights organisations, wants to reaffirm the need and its commitment to counter gender based discrimination as well as any form of abuse and violence perpetrated against any woman or girl.
South Asia is host to 1 771 482 000 inhabitants out of which 48,44% are women. 50 million women are missing from this women’s population though due to harmful discriminatory practices. Those are called “the missing women”. The region ranks relatively high with its 7% expected economic growth rate in 2016, however women in South Asia are still thriving to equally access and exercise their economic rights. Overall, South Asian women are still facing enormous challenges to avail their inalienable and fundamental rights: too many women are denied their place in the political process and in the public sphere. Currently, in South Asia, women make up just 9 percent of judges, 4 percent of prosecution staff and just 3 percent of police but reported cases or VAWG are increasing. In Pakistan, it is estimated that around 80% of women experience violence at home. The recent decrease in cases of acid violence in the country clearly demonstrates that VAWG is not a fatality. EVAWG alliance consequently urges the government of Pakistan to repeal discriminatory laws such as Hudood Ordinance, to enact the pending bills in in the federal capital such as Christian Marriage Bill, Child protection Bill, National Commission on the Rights of the Child Bill but also to enact the Comprehensive acid and Burn crime Bill. Furthermore, strengthening women’s rights state institutions is also crucial: Pakistan needs autonomous, independent and operational women’s commissions in all provinces. The effective implementation of the National Plan of Action is also essential to counter anti-Pakistan elements who promote a violent, anti-women, autocratic, discriminatory and obscurantist agenda. Last but not the least, it is important to mention that the Criminal Law (Amendment) (Offences Relating to Rape) Act 2016 and Criminal Law (Amendment) Offences in the Name or Pretext of Honour Act 2016 were both passed in a joint sitting of parliament on 6 October, 2016.
The anti rape law is a very good piece of legislation with a combination of tightening existing provisions with stricter penalties and adding new sections to the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). The results of DNA testing as admissible evidence, in camera trial sessions and criminalising the disclosure of the identity of the victims of rape are particularly important new developments that will, it is hoped, go a long way towards more convictions in rape related cases.
Another new addition to the PPC is the right to free legal representation for a rape victim. The Parliament’s recognition of the importance of free legal representation is a step closer to the realisation that access to justice to the new law is as important as the legislation itself. The EVAW& G alliance hopes free legal access is introduced in more legal provisions that deal with violence against women.
The omission of the controversial section 151 (4) of the Qanun-e-Shahadat Order 1984 which read “it may be shown that the prosecutrix was of generally immoral character” is a cause for much celebration and a step forward towards narrowing the gender discrimination gap in the legal discourse.
Unfortunately, the anti-honour crimes act does not attract the same reaction, disappointing the alliance as a poor attempt in an area that required much stricter legal attention. The crime of ‘honour’ still remains compoundable and therefore perpetrators who kill in the name of ‘honour’ may still be pardoned as previously. The punishment for a crime of ‘honour’ has been increased to life imprisonment but the offence still remains compoundable and the punishment for the crime has not been made mandatory. EVAWG alliance does not believe that the new law will change much in terms of bringing justice to victims of ‘honour’ crimes. This is because forgiveness of the perpetrator by his heirs still remains a legal possibility. The law attempts to increase the discretion of the judge but the alliance is sceptical that this will make much difference in an ‘honour’ trial before a court of law, as previous limited discretion of the judges has never been shown to be used in favour of the victim, especially in a context in which security for judges may leave much to be desired, and when official threats to judges to disrupt due and fair trial are left unpunished. The law must be further strengthened to ensure non-compoundability of the offence, to ensure real justice.
EVAWG alliance reiterates that equality and Eradication of Violence against Women and Girls are matters of crucial national interest: all surveys and studies show that empowering women and girls is critical for economic development. Pakistan will not be able to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals and envisage prosperity without actively and equally involving, acknowledging, protecting and supporting women and girls in the overall societal process. At the end EVAW-G Alliance Pakistan has screened the documentary which has been produced by Canadian filmmakers on the story of Haseeb Khawaja (Journalist, Filmmaker & Human Rights Activist).
And before the screening of documentary Haseeb Khawaja told about honour killings and their Canadian Featured Documentary Film “Unveiled: The Kohistan Video Scandal” to the audience, he saild, Honour Killing is the utmost violent expression in which victims are usually females in Pakistan. Washing so-called shame with blood is a brutal practice claiming to restore the honour of one’s family in the name of culture, religion or tradition, but it is absolutely not honourable. According to the survey, an average of 1000 cases of honour killings have been recorded in 2015. Due to low reporting, actual figures are believed to be significantly many times higher than that. In this connection “End Violence against Women and Girls, Alliance Pakistan” has selected the screening of an internationally featured documentary film “Unveiled: The Kohistan Video Scandal” which has been produced by Canadian Filmmakers. This film is all about Pakistan’s mega, high profile and complex, girls’ slaughtering for Honour by a Jirga in Kohistan; it features the phenomenal role of an investigative journalist/ women rights’ activist, Haseeb Khawaja, who vowed to expose all the cover-ups of the case of girls’ so-called Honour killings/ Jirga’s misogynistic approach as well as his selfless continuous help to the victim, Afzal Kohistani, throughout the case. This film portrays Pakistan’s positive image. The people who always criticise that foreign community only portrays Pakistan negatively must watch this documentary. It has been made with pure positive humanitarian intentions by internationally renowned Canadian filmmakers. According to Canadian Filmmakers, they want to show the world that Pakistan is not a place where just bad people live; this country is also full of wonderful peaceful progressive people who stand against inhuman activities and perform their responsibilities to protect and promote humanity. The Kohistan Video Case highlights the impunity that a parallel legal system provides to criminals who can hide behind traditions and religious practices.
Furthermore Journalist, Documentary Filmmaker and Activist, Haseeb Khawaja said, “I will never forget to follow up on Kohistan Video Case and will not let anyone forget this case either. I will keep on highlighting it again and again till it reaches its logical end. Kohistan Video Case is not my personal case and I am not one of those persons who will not get personal benefit, even if the case gets resolved. So put aside all of your doubts and let’s become the voice of those innocent voiceless girls and set an example against Jirga’s illegal parallel judicial system. Moreover, we have started a campaign across Pakistan and worldwide for spreading awareness through this documentary film on Jirga’s inhuman role regarding women’s so-called Honour Killings. While on the other side, some weeks ago, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has finally reopened a very famous (but then later ignored), Kohistan Video Case. I hope for true and fair justice”.