A milestone achieved

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In a landmark decision, the government has taken a significant step towards curbing violence against women by initiating the development of a comprehensive National Gender Policy. The Ministry of Human Rights, in collaboration with stakeholders, is actively working to provide legal and financial assistance, ensuring access to justice for vulnerable groups, particularly women, in criminal cases. This move marks a crucial stride in the government’s commitment to empowering women and creating a safer environment in the country.
Special Assistant on Human Rights and Women Empowerment, Mushaal Hussein Mullick, unveiled these efforts during the opening ceremony of an international conference at Fatima Jinnah Women University in Rawalpindi. The establishment of helplines to combat gender-based violence and the operation of women protection and rehabilitation centers at various administrative levels are promising initiatives, offering early response and comprehensive support to victims.
Despite the enactment of significant legislation such as the Zainab Alert Response and Recovery Act, 2020, the Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights Act 2020, The Anti Rape (Investigation and Trial) Act 2021, and The Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace (Amendment) Act, 2022, the need for a cohesive national policy remained evident. The government’s awakening to this need demonstrates a proactive approach to address the systemic challenges faced by women in the country.
Gender-based violence affects both men and women, but the majority of victims are disproportionately women and girls. In Pakistan, various forms of violence, including physical, sexual, psychological, and economic abuse, persistently plague the lives of women. While there has been a decline in reported cases of honor killings from 898 in 2014 to 277 in 2020, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan highlights the prevalence of unreported cases, particularly in remote rural regions, where family members often try to conceal the crimes.
The national policy is a welcomed move as it signifies the government’s commitment to tackling pervasive issues such as acid attacks, sexual violence, human trafficking, girls used as compensation, and forced marriages. By enacting and enforcing laws through this policy, the government aims to reduce and eventually eliminate these instances of violence, fostering a safer and more equitable society.
As Pakistan celebrates this crucial step towards women’s safety, it is imperative for all stakeholders to actively participate in the implementation of the policy, ensuring its effectiveness and impact on the ground. The collective effort will not only empower women but also contribute to the creation of a society where every individual, regardless of gender, can thrive free from the shackles of violence.