LAHORE:(APS)March 7: On the eve of International Women’s Day, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called upon the authorities to recognize the role of women human rights defenders and protect them from discrimination, harassment and attacks.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Commission said: “Women rights defenders are subject to the same types of risks as any human rights defender, but as women, they are more vulnerable particularly gender-specific violence are also targeted for or exposed to gender-specific threats.”
“Pakistan’s hostility towards human rights defenders, including women HRDs, is deeply worrying. In March 2016, Pakistan lobbied against a UN Human Rights Council resolution that sought greater protection for HRDs working in the fields of economic, social and cultural rights. Before that in December 2015, Pakistan was one of only 14 out of 193 states that voted against the UN General Assembly resolution on HRDs. On other instances, Pakistan has actively worked to water down UN resolutions that have sought greater protection for women human rights defenders.”
“Numerous human rights defenders are killed, attacked or face other kinds of threats or harassment in Pakistan every year. It is perplexing that the government still argues that “human rights defenders” are not a special group and do not warrant a special legal status. Even worse, senior representatives of the government repeatedly call human rights defenders ‘foreign agents’, ‘proponents of Western values’ and ‘anti-Islam’. Such statements do not just discredit the important work of human rights defenders, they also makes them vulnerable to harassment, threats and even attacks.”
“On many international forums, Pakistan claims to be a ‘democratic and progressive country’ firmly committed to the ‘promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms’. The government must now follow up rhetoric with concrete action by publicly acknowledging the important and legitimate role of women human rights defenders in the promotion and protection of human rights, democracy, and rule of law. The government must also ensure that women HRDs are provided a secure and equal environment in which they can carry out their work without fear.”