Global Human Rights Defence

Pakistani Flag. Source: © Shoaib Malik/Flickr, 2009

Author: Kirsten O’Connell

Department: Pakistan Team

A Thomas Reuters Foundation poll (a corporate foundation that raises global awareness of the most critical issues faced by humanity) ranked Pakistan as the sixth most dangerous country for women (Sukhera, 2021). Pakistan is also ranked 153rd out of 156 countries on the Global Gender Gap 2021 index by the World Economic Forum (Waheed, 2021). The Human Rights Commission Pakistan (HRCP) noted a rise in domestic and online violence complaints in just the last two years, 2020 and 2021. The HRCP recorded 430 cases of honour killings in 2020, which involved 263 female victims. The police in Punjab province registered 53 cases of gang rape in the first four months of 2021 (Sukhera, 2021). Around 28 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 29 have experienced physical violence, according to the Pakistan Ministry of Human Rights which cited the country’s Demographic and Health Survey from 2017 – 2018 (Saifi, 2021). According to the Aurat Foundation, a women’s rights organisation based in Islamabad, Pakistan, 2,297 cases of violence against women were registered in four provinces in 2021. These violent incidents involved murder, abduction, kidnapping, rape and gang rape, honour killings and domestic abuse. There are researchers who have reported these figures to be inaccurate and undercount the actual number of violent crimes committed against women in Pakistan (Sukhera, 2021).

As the amount of cases of gender-based violence is grossly underreported, there is no way to make a correct estimate (Hafeez, 2021). If the victims are from lower class backgrounds, they can spend years fighting against the judicial system. It has taken decades for the country to close a legal loophole that allowed perpetrators of honour killings to seek forgiveness from the victim’s family to escape punishment. It was an easy condition to fulfil since many perpetrators of honour killings are related to the victim (Hafeez, 2021). However, despite the change in law after the murder of social media star Qandeel Baloch by her brother, he walked free in February 2022 after his mother forgave him. There has still been no report as to how he was able to escape punishment when the act of forgiveness had already been outlawed. All of this points towards the State for failing to protect its women. The high rate of gender-based violence has been blamed on lack of education, lack of awareness and rampant misogyny in the country. However, the finger always points at the complicity of the State and its representatives for their inability and lack of commitment to protect women (Sukhera, 2021).

For instance, Prime Minister Imran Khan made some heinous remarks about women and the atrocities committed against them. When asked by the BBC about the rise in sexual assault cases, he responded that sexual violence is a result of the increasing obscenity of women, and they should cover themselves up to prevent temptations (Sukhera, 2021). “If a woman is wearing very few clothes, it will have an impact on the men, unless they are robots. It’s just common sense” (Kirmani, 2021). A similar situation arose when Maulana Tariq Jameel, a powerful cleric, stated on live television, with Khan present, that the pandemic was caused by the “lack of modesty of women”. (Sukhera, 2021). One woman said, Unfortunately the prime minister’s statements belie the true nature of the crime and send the message to victims that they are somehow responsible for what happens to them. That can turn hesitation about coming forward into refusal to come forward, which in turn distances perpetrators even more from accountability” (Hafeez, 2021). Jasmyn Rana, a psychologist, said, “Victim blaming, and shaming can not only cause trauma to be retriggered or made more acute, but they also prevent other victims from speaking up.” She further explained that the prime minister has enormous reach and “When Imran Khan, and other people in power put the blame on victims, they give more room to abusers in our system to feel confident and comfortable enough to get away with further violations and perhaps even justify their actions” (Sukhera, 2021).

Another woman, Alia Amir Ali said, “Solutions require an acknowledgement of the problem and an openness to discover uncomfortable truths about ourselves and others. I do not know how many people are willing to do this. Our collective dehumanisation is something that all of us in Pakistan society must accept as a reality if we are to step towards transforming it” (Hafeez, 2021). It seems like the system is stacked against women and a good demonstration of this involves the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill 2021. The advisor to the Prime Minister on parliamentary affairs, Babar Awan, wrote a letter to the National Assembly asking for a review of the passed bill against domestic violence and said it should be sent to the Council Islamic Ideological for recommendations (CII). The bill states domestic violence as “[..]all acts of physical, emotional, psychological, sexual and economic abuse committed against women, children or any other vulnerable persons or any other person with which the accused has been in a domestic relationship that causes far of physical or psychological harm to the aggrieved person” (Sukhera, 2021). Hiba Akhbar said, “The struggle right now is having domestic violence recognised as a proper offence in the country.” She also noted that the CII is not involved in the formation of other laws but somehow always seems to have a say when the matter at hand concerns women’s rights.” Furthermore, the fact that the CII’s recommendations are not legally binding and are only given importance in matters concerning women’s rights is something worth objecting to (Sukhera, 2021).

There are laws that favour the powerful in Pakistan. These include ordinances that essentially permit the accused to be pardoned by the victim’s family and when the perpetrators are rich and the victim’s family is poor, this places the poor family in a lot of pressure to capitulate and grant the pardon. There are also unofficial ways people interfere with cases, for instance, police and judges of lower courts are poorly paid and often amenable to bribes. Since there is no jury in Pakistan, the trial is decided by a judge alone and powerful families can bribe any witnesses (Zakaria, 2021). Given the history of violence against women in Pakistan in the last two years, the way these cases are handled and the callous statements by government officials, it may be time to admit the system in Pakistan is stacked against women. Even when victims make it in front of a judge, the conviction rate is less than three percent, which further discourages women from reporting such crimes (Sukhera, 2021). One woman stated, “This is a hard place for women and is only getting harder until we call out misogyny, and hold the State and ourselves accountable” (Sukhera, 2021). Kanwal Ahmed stated, “Women are not just angry they are terrified because we know far too many rapists and murders get away with it.” (Waheed, 2021).

To highlight the prevalence of violence against women in Pakistan even further, it is worth mentioning some cases. Khadija Siddiqui was stabbed 23 times in 2016 by Shah Hussain when she was still a law student. He was sentenced to only five years in prison for his brutal attack and was released in early 2021. Rimmel Mohydin, a South Asia, Campaigner for Amnesty International, stated, “Each day when a victim doesn’t get justice or when a perpetrator walks free after adding to the toll of women being killed or violated in this country should be a watershed moment” (Hafeez, 2021). Siddiqui later revealed she was not informed by any official authorities of the early release and finds it unnerving that there are no measures taken to ensure her safety when releasing a perpetrator from prison or fighting for justice.

Mariam works as a house helper, and she is the only one providing an income to her family because her husband refuses to work. He physically and verbally abuses her, “As soon as I reach home, tired from a hard day’s work at different households, before I have even stepped foot inside the house, he starts with his tyranny and starts beating me”. Mariam was married to her husband through the custom of watta satta, a tradition of marriage exchanges, common practice in rural areas of Pakistan. The daughter of her husband was wedded off to Mariam’s brother in exchange for Mariam. If Mariam tries to leave him, she will risk being socially shunned and her brother’s marriage would end too. Mariam is not only physically abused by her husband. She is also abused by her seven year old stepson, who beats her “to the extent that my clothes were soaked with blood”. Mariam’s stories are not isolated incidents. She is one of the thousands of women in Pakistan who face gender-based violence but are missing from the statistics because they never officially report their abusers for various reasons. (Hafeez, 2021). For instance, the majority of women do not report cases of domestic violence to the police because they think husbands have the right to beat their wives and brush the matter under the carpet. (Qayyum, 2017)

Saima Ali spent ten days in hospital after her father, Raza Ali, a former police constable, opened fire on his family which resulted in Saima’s mother, Bushra Raza, dying of her wounds. The incident happened on July 2, 2021, with Raza having a history of drug addiction and domestic violence (Hafeez, 2021). Saima stated, “He shot us and left us for dead and the police have nothing for our protection. It is very hard for women from poor backgrounds to get justice without any influence of support. We face so many barriers to get justice because of gender discrimination” (Waheed, 2021). Another case was that of Quratulain Baloch, a mother of four who was tortured and murdered by her husband in Hyderabad Sindh province (Hafeez, 2021). This can be seen as an endemic of violence against women because these women had been victims of frequent domestic violence for years. Keghad Baloch was allegedly tortured and murdered by security forces in Kech in Balochistan in 2021 (Hafeez, 2021). “Entering her Keghad Baloch’s house, torturing her and murdering her is testimony to the increased state brutality against Baloch women”, stated Mahrang Baloch (Hafeez, 2021). In 2020, Milknaz Baloch was gunned down at her home by three armed men during an armed robbery (Hafeez, 2021). The same year, a woman was gang-raped in front of her children on a highway in Pakistan. The woman was waiting for help as her car ran out of fuel when two men emerged and raped her at gunpoint (BBC, 2021). Women in Pakistan also experience trauma from the very systems meant to protect them. For instance, the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) said after working on the woman’s case that the victim should not have taken the route she had – once again victim-blaming (Sukhera, 2021).

Ayesha Ikram, a TikTok creator, was harassed and groped by more than 400 men on the grounds of a major national monument of the country’s independence, the Minar-e-Pakistan (Bain, 2021). There are many people calling the issue within Pakistan regarding gender-based violence as a femicide to draw attention to the scale of the issue and how systemic it is (Kirmani, 2021). Qandeel Baloch was murdered by her youngest brother in 2016 because of her “intolerable behaviour”. Baloch was a social media star who was bold and open about her sexuality. The murder of Qandeel set off a debate around the question of women’s sexuality and victim-blaming (Kirmani, 2021).

The brutal murder of Noor Mukadam on July 20, 2021 was the tipping point for many. The horrifying details that emerged in the days after her death sparked protests and vigils in Pakistan, with people taking to the streets with demands for #JusticeforNoor (Dawn, 2022). Noor was murdered by Zahir Jaffer, an acquittance of hers and son of one of Pakistan’s richest families (Saifi, 2021). Noor’s murder took place among an especially horrific spat of crimes against women in Pakistan. Noor’s case became a rallying point against the hypocrisy of the society where women are present in all sectors of the economy and public life but where few places exist for them to turn to when they face abuse at the hands of men (Zakaria, 2021). The murder took place just over a year ago on July 20, 2021. At around dusk, Zahir Jaffer who held Noor captive for two days raped her, tortured her with a knuckleduster and beheaded her with a  knife. In the days following the crime, Zahir’s parents, whose phone records show were in contact with their son and household staff before and after the murder, were also arrested and placed in police custody as were the household guards, cook and the gardener, all of whom were present at the time of the murder at the Jaffer’s sprawling home in the most exclusive enclave in Islamabad (Zakaria, 2021).

According to the police investigation and CCTV footage, Noor attempted to escape but Zahir’s armed security guard did not let her leave. Later that evening, she jumped down from a balcony. This time, it was the gardener who locked the gate and refused to let her run. Zahir Jaffer emerged from the house and dragged her back inside by her hair. She was murdered moments later. Zahir Jaffer’s multimillionaire parents then tried to orchestrate a cover up according to Islamabad police, calling a therapy centre where Zahir had once been in treatment and asking them to send a team to their house, allegedly to dispose of Noor’s body. If a neighbour did not call the police, they may have been successful in doing so. Later that day, Shaukat Mukadam, Noor’s father, was asked to come to their home, where he identified the body and the severed head of Noor’s (Zakaria, 2021). One reason Noor’s case has been able to evade the usual traps is because of the intense pressure from social media, where the hashtag #JusticeForNoor trends every time, there are new developments (Zakaria, 2021). It would appear to be an open and shut case, but things are not that simple in Pakistan (Zakaria, 2021).

“Noor Mukadam’s murder, along with a multitude of other recent instances of gender based violence, is an indicator of the deepening unrest, insecurity and inequality in Pakistani society”, stated Alia Amirali, a Pakistani feminist academician (Hafeez, 2021). The brutal murder of Noor and the recent cases of violence against women paints a bigger picture. The Pakistani State has failed to protect its women (Hafeez, 2021). The status of the two families and brutality of the crime have brought the case worldwide attention. But for victims from lower class backgrounds without money or publicity to help them, justice is lost even before it has begun (Waheed, 2021).

In conclusion violence against women is systemic within the society of Pakistan. This is seen within the issues surrounding the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill 2021. It is seen within the heinous statements from Pakistan’s leadership, and police officials, victim blaming women for what happens to them. The system is in fact stacked against women because with all this and more they feel they can’t report what happens to them. When they do, depending on their social and economic background they could spend years fighting the judicial system. Women in Pakistan would not be wrong to point the finger at the State and its representatives for their clear inability and lack of willingness to protect women in Pakistan. It’s clearly shown in the cases of Khadija Siddiqui, Mariam, Saima Ali, Quratulian Baloch, Keghad Baloch, Ayesha Ikram, Qandeel Baloch and Noor Mukadam that violence against women in Pakistan is rising. It’s also clearly shown within the statistics of the Human Rights Commission Pakistan and Pakistan’s country Demographic and Health Survey among other bodies monitoring the violence against women in Pakistan.



Bain, E. B. (2021, August 19). Who is Ayesha Akram? Pakistani TikTok star attacked by 400-man mob. HITC. Retrieved April 4, 2021, from

BBC News. (2021, March 21). Pakistan: Two men sentenced to death for motorway rape. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from (2022, February 24). Justice for Noor: A timeline of how one of the country’s most high-profile murder cases unfolded. Retrieved March 21, 2022, from

Hafeez, S. H. (2021, August 7). Pakistan’s Problem With Violence Against Women Is Growing Impossible to Ignore. The Diplomat. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from

Kirmani, N. K. (2021, October 8). The past few months have been harrowing for Pakistani women. Women | Al Jazeera. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from

 Qayyum, M. Q. (2017, July 5). Domestic violence: victims are left on their own in Pakistan. New Internationalist. Retrieved April 15, 2022, from

Saifi, S. C. (2021, August 9). Noor Mukadam: The beheading of a diplomat’s daughter shows how badly Pakistan is failing its women. CNN. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from

Sukhera, N. S. (2021, August 3). How Pakistan Failed Its Women. The Diplomat. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from

Waheed, A. W. (2021, August 2). Pakistan reckons with its ‘gender terrorism epidemic’ after murder of Noor Mukadam. The Guardian. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from

Zakaria, R. Z. (2021, October 8). The Femicide Case That’s Captivated Pakistan. The Cut. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from



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Coordinator - Tibet Team

Mandakini graduated with honours from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Her team analyses the human rights violations faced by Tibetans through a legal lens.

Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

Lukas Mitidieri
Coordinator & Head Researcher- Bangladesh

Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
Editorial Team Lead

Nicole has an MSc in International Development Studies with a focus on migration. She is passionate about promoting human rights and fighting poverty through advocacy and empowering human choice. Nicole believes that even the simplest social justice efforts, when properly nurtured, can bring about radical and positive change worldwide.

Gabriela Johannen
Coordinator & Head Researcher – India

Gabriela Johannen is a lawyer admitted to the German bar and holds extensive knowledge in the fields of human rights, refugee law, and international law. After working for various courts and law firms in her home country, she decided to obtain an LL.M. degree from Utrecht University where she studied Public International Law with a special focus on Human Rights. Additionally, while working as a pro-bono legal advisor for refugees, she expanded her knowledge in the fields of refugee law and migration.

Gabriela is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD India, a country, she has had a personal connection with since childhood. Her primary focus is to raise awareness for the severe human rights violations against minorities and marginalized groups that continue to occur on a daily basis in India. By emphasizing the happenings and educating the general public, she hopes to create a better world for future generations.

João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

João has an extensive research engagement with subjects related to International Justice in general, and more specifically with the study of the jurisprudence of Human Rights Courts regarding the rise of populist and anti-terrorist measures taken by national governments. He is also interested in the different impacts that new technologies may provoke on the maintenance of Human Rights online, and how enforcing the due diligence rules among private technology companies might secure these rights against gross Human Rights violations.

Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

Angela holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Vitória Law School (FDV) in Brazil. Her research combines more than five years of experience conducting debates and studies on the rights of homeless people, the elderly, children, and refugees. Besides that, she also volunteers in a social project called Sou Diferente (I am Different in English), where she coordinates and takes part in actions aimed at the assistance and the emancipation of vulnerable groups in the cities of the metropolitan area of Espírito Santo state (Brazil).

Lina Borchardt
Team Head (Promotions)

She is currently heading the Promotions Team and University Chapter of Global Human Rights Defence. Her background is the one of European and International Law, which I am studying in The Hague. She has previously gained experience at Women´s Rights organizations in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey over the past years.
She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

Wiktoria Walczyk
Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

Wiktoria Walczyk has joined GHRD in June 2020 as a legal intern. She is currently coordinator and head researcher of Team Nepal and Indonesia. She has an extensive legal knowledge concerning international human rights and is passionate about children’s and minorities’ rights. Wiktoria has obtained her LL.B. in International & European Law and she specialised in Public International Law & Human Rights at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, she is pursuing her LL.M. in International & European Law and focusing on Modern Human Rights Law specialisation at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In order to gain an essential legal experience, Wiktoria has also joined Credit Suisse’s 2021 General Counsel Graduate First Program where she is conducting her legal training and discovering the banking world. She would like to make a significant impact when it comes to the protection of fundamental human rights around the world, especially with regard to child labour. 

Fairuz Sewbaks
Coordinator and Head Researcher

Fairuz Sewbaks holds extensive legal knowledge regarding international human rights, with a specific focus on human rights dealings taking place in continental Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Hague University in public international law and international human rights and successfully followed advanced human rights courses at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. She furthermore participated in the Istanbul Summer School where she was educated about the role of epidemics and pandemics in light of human rights.


Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.