“ALARMING SITUATION OF WOMEN IN PAKISTAN”
(Stop Violence against Women)
This report is comprised by: Kashif Nawab and Amber Sohail
This report is an attempt to comprehensively understand the situation of minority women in Pakistan, examining their context, their experiences and perspectives.
Using both primary and secondary data as well as qualitative and quantitative input, it sketches and national context with regard to minorities and reviews issues of health; water; hygiene and sanitation; socio-economic conditions; education; autonomy; political participation; discriminations such as forced and mediated conversions; law related loopholes and law enforcement cancers and redress options.
Its objective is to draw attention towards minority women as a constantly neglected demographic, and to use it findings it raise awareness and bolster advocacy for addressing their concerns, both practical and strategic. The report is also meant to feed into the CEDAW Shadow report prepared by NGOs.
The report finds the case of double jeopardy where minority women face discrimination and exploitation on grounds of being members of religious minorities and on account of being women, who are marginalized citizens in Pakistan.
According to the findings, 43% of minority women found to have either religious discrimination themselves or were experienced by a member of their family. Most discrimination seems to be in the workplace (40%) with educational institutions coming in second (24%) and in ones own locality (18%).
62% of the respondents felt that in times of religious disturbance they will not be supported by the majority community with 27%answering that they will stand up for them.14% of the responded interviewed reported to have firsthand knowledge of cases here minority women had been abducted with 8% kneeing of forced conversion and 3% of cases of trafficking.
The findings reflect that while in some aspects minority women have fared better than majority of female population in terms of gender-based development indicators, in terms of personal autonomy they are subjects to the same constraints as majority women .66%of minority women were treated as equal to their male siblings. 58% were encouraged to seek education, 73% had families who were supportive of their jobs and 66% resounded that they participated in decision making processes. Yet, a significant number of respondents (66%) said they are not allowed to exercise free choice in marrying, neither will they have a say/had a say in person they married /will marry. More than half of the respondents had to face restriction of their nobility. 79% of the respondents hold a computerized national identity canard with 65%haveing exercised their voting rights .A low 5% of minority women are members of a political party and of these only 2%representative s.
29% are earning less than the stipulated minimum wages of Rs. 7,000 per month and another 29% have a monthly family income below Rs.25,000. Three quarters of the respondents have no savings and the ones who do, save only 1% of income.40% are under debt/loan burden.
Even in the urban-centric respondent base , only 65%live in brick houses with 12%in semi-brick houses and 15%in mud houses.62% live either inane or two bedroom house whereas 60% of the respondents have from 5-10 family members residing in the house 67% use pour flush latrines but 11% have no toilets facilities at all, 21% have pit latrines.
Minority women in the national context
Changes in the global and national contexts have led to recognition of and challenging of the subservient position of women in Pakistan in the family, community society and state, even though the pace of progress has been dissatisfactory.
Yet the position and condition of minority women remains critical and threatened. Legislative bodies, justice delivery systems, institutions and implementations mechanisms seem to consider women belonging to religious minorities as non-entities at present.
If women’s emancipation and empowerment is seen as mean of building as better society and the question of gender parity is applied both as a principle and method, then the need to bring minority women to equal and due status as citizens and human beings, is extremely urgent.
Women belonging to religious minorities are roughly estimated at 3 million in Pakistan. Yet there is no minority women’s representation in apex and higher judiciary, or civil and foreign services of Pakistan in 2011. There are three minority women each in senate, National assembly and provincial assembly of Punjab.
According to the UNDP human development index Pakistan ranks 125 out of 169 countries making it one of the least developed countries in Asia. On the human poverty index, Pakistan ranked 77th among below the poverty line. According to World Bank estimates carried out in 2009 poverty head count rate could increase by 25 percent in 2009-2010. The floods this year leave no room for doubt: the gap between the haves and have-nots widened. In fact inflation rated is estimated range between 15-20%.
Pakistan is one of the few countries that have failed to achieve a single education for all goals. The GDP growth for 2009-10 was on 2.3 percent and the literacy rate did not exceed 56%. Pakistan ranks 117 out of 134 countries in terms of quality primary education.
Health facilities ales lag behind. In the south Asian region the less than 5 year mortality per thousand is the highest in Pakistan i.e. 90. The per capita expenditure is less then US $16as against $34 recommended by WHOM. Fewer prospects of the youth are another bleak factor with 34 million jobless youth in 2009 of who 14.5 million were educated.
According to HRCP 2009 report, Pakistan ranked 126 among 128 countries in the Gender Gap index which shows the overall low status of women. Honor killing, domestic violence, rape continues.
The overall growing intolerance; extremism in the country; laws that determine their legal status, and the pressures of the “Blasphemy Law are factors that impinge on the role and status of minorities be it men and women. Furthermore, the culture an social traditions which prevail impinge on the rights of women and these in turn, further impact minority women as they are then subject to double discrimination on account of being minority and on being a woman. In the larger society minority women can well be exposed to discrimination and at home they face discrimination on account of the patriarchal system. Domestic violence, gender discrimination in terms of equal opportunities, lack of decision making opportunities becomes the norm.
In spite of these realities, minority women have shown resilience and seek rights granted and constitution and in the conventions that Pakistan has ratified and is a signatory to. The fact that the minority women are active in ate social milieu reflects and optimism that allows for a way forward.
The CEDAW convention provides solid guidance as a gender specific human rights treaty it provides a consistent human right framework for the protection of all womb and girls including women and girls belonging to minorities against all forms of discrimination in all fields of like including the area of education.
In order to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and achieve substantive equality between women and men, the elimination of discrimination against women and girls in all fields is essential.
Minority women and girls, in fact, suffer from multiple forms of discrimination, intersectional discrimination, and compounded discrimination.
In addition to the core principles of equality and non discrimination, it is also very important to use the core principles of the CEDAW convention on equality between women and men and non-discrimination against women, and apply them on minorities as well.
Governance and Policy
Pakistan has experienced paradoxical trends in progress towards women’s right in general. While the induction of Muslim family laws (MFLO 1960) was encouraging, the Hudood laws and law of evidence in 1980s was a leap backward, which affected all women including those belonging to minorities. Recently, the reserved seats for women in the legislative an local bodies in 2000 and the removal of horrific parts of Hudood laws under the women protection Act 2004 were significant an positive steps, yet on the other hand unimpeded violence against women; honor crimes, domestic violence and sexual harassment, are either constant or increasing according to the data collected by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and Aurat Foundation.
In 2010 domestic violence bill that offered protection to women was not passed by the senate in the given time and therefore lapsed, the second bill, criminal law amendment bill against sexual harassment was adopted by the senate that offers some safeguard to women at workplace.
Departments for women development were created at provincial levels as well: however, except for Sindh and Balochistan, these departments are merged into Social Welfare Department. Poor managing of women crisis center before and after devolution to provinces a controversy about taking over the centers in Punjab show women’s rights are yet to be taken seriously in policy and governance.
Then 18th amendment carries immense potential for addressing provincial concerns regarding lack of autonomy, but the effective implementation of the law constitutional arrangement depends on the capacity of provincial departments to utilize their enhanced legislative and administrative authority.
The leadership role of women development divisions is expected to be enhancing after devolution of some of key functions of MOWD. With the abolition of the concurrent list, provinces shall enjoy exclusive legislative powers concerning criminal law, contracts, transfer of property, labor welfare, marriage and divorce, etc.
The national commission on status of women was set up in 2000.it was able to deliver some positive results because of leadership in past and present along with partnerships with women’s organizations. NCSW is planning to study the matrimonial laws concerning minority women. However it is not an independent institution in terms of its resource base and powers as a national human rights instating having influence on policy making and legislation on relevant issues.
The act of the establishment of National Commission on Women (NCW) was passed by the National Assembly on the 19th of January 2012. Under this, the NCW would work for the emancipation of Pakistani women through “promotion of social , economic, political and legal rights of women “as provided in the contusion and “ in accordance with international declarations, conventions, treaties , conventions and agreements relating to women including the convention, treaties, conventions, and agreements relating to women”. Thus, the NCW will take the lead in ensuring women’s human rights and gender equality and development. The commission will examine the federal government’s policy and programs for gender equality, women’s empowerment, political participation, representation, assess their implementation and make suitable recommendation, reviewing repeal, amendment or new legislation to eliminate discrimination, safeguarding and promoting the interest of women and achieving gender equality.
The ministry for minority’s affairs has been subject to experiments by each government whether to have a state ministry or independent federal ministry or simply not have one. While the Pervez Musharrf cabinet had a Federal Minister for minorities adjoined with some other portfolios from 1999-2002, the next cabinet 2002-2005 under Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali dispensed with the ministry all together. Staff worked as a division of ministry for religious affairs without much funds. The next Prime Minister Mr. Shaukat Aziz in the same tenure appointed a state minister 2006-2008 with a separate staff an office. After assassination of Minister “Shahbaz Bhatti” who was Federal Minister November 2009-March 2011 the government appointed an Advisor to Prime Minister on minorities, with the status of Federal Minister and other State Minister with new portfolio of national harmony.
Minister Shahbaz Bhatti died while trying to defend rights of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy. All minister, including those for minority affairs failed to protect rights of citizens, and departments assigned to protect rights of citizens and in particular of women and minorities. The ministry of ministries Affairs during different government relied on giving out charity, rather than addressing the issues of their rights.
Committees on minorities were set up by various governments at national and provincial levels. However, as advisory, these Committees were neither statutory nor had any terms of reference to guide their work. None of these competent bodies have looked into, for instance, the issue of reviewing personal laws for religious minorities. The political expediencies that unfortunate are a regular part of decision making in governance structures results in waste of enormous amount of resources.
In Sindh and Punjab province, where over 90% Christians and Hindus are located, they form a large part of labor in informal sectors, agriculture, brick kilns, and domestic servitude. There are frequent reports of abuses against minority women including illegal detentions violence, rape, low and non-payment of wages, illegal occupations and grabbing of land. Frequent reportage in media and demands by minority for legal and judicial safeguards against forced conversions of particularly women and minor girls has been ignored by successive governments.
80% of the minority community is poor while 40% population in Pakistan is below poverty line. The precise number of domestic workers is unknown but the report states domestic workers at 6.7% of the then estimated 8 million child workers in Pakistan. Working on public holidays, lack of sick leave, working long hours, subject to harassment, violence sexual workers belong to minority community. An estimated 1.7 million people are working as bonded labor in the agriculture sector of the country and 1 million laborers’ including women and children in the 13,000 brick kilns in the country.
A majority of bonded laborers’ in Pakistan belong to religious or low-caste minorities Hindus in Sindh and Christians in Punjab who are both physically and emotionally abused by the employers. Human trafficking is also part of the bonded labor system which allowed buying and selling of laborers’ between employers. Under this system the new employer agrees to take on the laborers debt by paying the previous employer the amount of debt owned by worker.
There are strake examples where minority women have suffered on account of belonging to religious community. The media, Human rights commission of Pakistan reports, human rights monitor reports and other time and again have reported to forced conversions to Islam particularly of Hindu girls/women being abducted, married off to Muslim men and converted, discrimination at work places, educational institutions, rape, murder, hate speech. Social pressures and ‘invitation’ to change one’s religion has almost become to norm of social interaction by the members of majority community with the minority community.