Women’s Rights in Pakistan

Last week (12 February 2019) dr. Mohammad Faisal, spokesman of the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Officers, tweeted about Pakistan’s successful implementation of the UN target for Member States to deploy at least 15 percent women as military observers and staff officers for UN peacekeeping missions.[1] Besides the fact that this goal was set for the end of 2017,[2] ‘Pakistan has gone up from zero per cent participation of women in peacekeeping to 15 per cent in 18 months.’[3] Nevertheless, Pakistan’s efforts to involve women in UN peacekeeping in order to improve gender equality does not at all reflect the current development of the country in relation to women’s rights.

Even though Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)[4] in 1996, the 2019 world report of Human Rights Watch stipulates that ‘violence against women and girls—including rape, so-called honor killings, acid attacks, domestic violence, and forced marriage—remains a serious problem.’[5] The violence and inequality against women is deeply rooted in Pakistan’s history which is often used as reason to justify the current injustice as being part of ‘tradition and customs.’[6] Pakistan’s patriarchal political system persistently deprives women from equal access to opportunity in all layers of society including ‘the rights and freedoms to which every human being is equally and inalienably entitled.’[7] Liberty, social security, education, employment, politics, health, freedom of expression and consensual marriage are among the many basic fundamental rights which are not ensured for the Pakistani women. Pakistan’s military, which is accused of having ties with extremist religious groups, is exercising increasing power over state policy, rendering the current situation for women only worse.[8]

The lacking political stability in Pakistan enables perpetrators of all sorts of gender based crimes against women to go unpunished, as government action on both national and local level remains absent.[9] Additionally seen is Pakistan’s non-acceptance of individual compliant procedures in international human rights treaties,[10] which is precisely what mirrors the national situation. Individual complaint procedures create the ‘ability of individuals to complain about the violation of their rights,’[11] and can therefore give rise to remedies for victims and ensure effective human rights monitoring. The local Pakistani governments and police forces are often corrupted and bias which bars women from effectively filing cases and complaints of sexual harassment, violence and other crimes both on national and international level.

Regardless of the laws that exist in relation to gender equality, Pakistan seems unable and/or unwilling to ensure the effective enforcement thereof. Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD) strongly condemns this lack of enforcement, and urges the international community to take action. Especially in light of international women’s day, which takes place on the 8th of March next month, GHRD hopes the UN will address the current situation for women in Pakistan to (as the official UN website denotes) ‘examine the ways in which innovation can remove barriers and accelerate progress for gender equality, encourage investment in gender-responsive social systems, and build services and infrastructure that meet the needs of women and girls.’[12]

 

 

[1] Mohammad Faisal (@DrMFaisal), ‘’Pakistan is proud to have achieved the goal of deployment of 15 percent female staff officers in UN Peacekeeping Missions, thereby meeting the benchmark set by the UN https://twitter.com/DrMFaisal/status/1095351351087898624‘’ (twitter post) 12 February 2019

[2] UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, ‘Un Peacekeeping sets New Targets for Female Police Military Observers and Staff Officers’  (20 September 2017) https://unficyp.unmissions.org/un-peacekeeping-sets-new-targets-female-police-military-observers-and-staff-officers accessed at 14 February 2019

[3] ‘Pakistan boosts female participation in UN peacekeeping operations’ (Geo News, 13 February 2019) https://www.geo.tv/latest/227978-pakistan-boosts-female-participation-in-un-peacekeeping-operations accessed on 14 February 2019

[4] UNGA Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (adopted 18 December 1979) UNTS 1249

[5] Human Rights Watch (HRW), ‘World Report 2019’ (2019, Pakistan p. 244), p. 450, accessible at: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019

[6] Sabrina Khan, ‘Pakistan and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women’ (2013) Vol 2, No 2, Criterion Quarterly http://www.criterion-quarterly.com/pakistan-and-the-convention-on-the-elimination-of-all-forms-of-discrimination-against-women/ accessed 15 February 2019

[7] Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted 10 December 1948 UNGA Res 217 A(III) (UDHR) Introduction (illustrated edition, 2015)

[8] Council on Foreign Relations, ‘Pakistan’s New Generation of Terrorists’ (18 November 2013) https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/pakistans-new-generation-terrorists accessed on 15 February 2019; National Geographic, ‘The Rising Voices of Women in Pakistan’ (6 February 2019) https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/2019/02/the-rising-voices-of-women-in-pakistan/ accessed on 15 February 2019

[9] HRW, ‘Shall I Feed my Daughter, or Educate Her?’ (12 November 2018) https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/11/12/shall-i-feed-my-daughter-or-educate-her/barriers-girls-education-pakistan accessed at 15 February 2019

[10] UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), ‘Acceptance of individual complaints procedures for Pakistan’ https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/TreatyBodyExternal/Treaty.aspx?CountryID=131&Lang=EN accessed 15 February 2019

[11] OHCHR, ‘Human Rights Bodies – Complaints Procedures’ https://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/tbpetitions/pages/hrtbpetitions.aspx accessed 15 February 2019

[12] UN, ‘International Women’s day 8 March’ http://www.un.org/en/events/womensday/ accessed at 16 February 2019