Islamabad/Brussels: Eight years into its democratic transition, violence against women is still endemic in Pakistan, amid a climate of impunity and state inaction. Discriminatory legislation and a dysfunctional criminal justice system have put women at grave risk. Targeted by violent extremists with an overt agenda of gender repression, women’s security is especially threatened in the conflict zones in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). On 8 March, International Women’s Day, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed that his government would take all necessary legislative and administrative steps to protect and empower women. If this pledge was in earnest, his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government should end institutionalised violence and discrimination against women, including by repealing unjust laws, countering extremist threats, particularly in KPK and FATA, and involving women and their specially relevant perspectives in design of state policies directly affecting their security, including strategies to deal with violent extremist groups.
Women in Pakistan are subject to institutionalised discrimination, militant violence and religious intolerance. Islamist militants are targeting women’s rights activists, political leaders and development workers with impunity. Prime Minister Sharif must stand by his vows to protect and empower women. Samina Ahmed, Senior Asia Adviser and South Asia Project Director
Despite some helpful laws since democratic transition began in 2008, chronic violence and discrimination against Pakistani women is amplified by parliament’s unwillingness to repeal or reform discriminatory laws; by the absence of a national domestic violence law; and by a gender-insensitive, dysfunctional criminal justice system. Pakistan must live up to its constitutional obligations and its signed international commitments. Tim Johnston, Asia Program Director @timalexjohn
A solid women’s presence in Pakistan’s political life and decision-making is central to sustainable reform and economic development. Without investing in their empowerment and putting their priorities at the heart of Pakistan’s counter-insurgency efforts, peace and security will remain elusive and the country’s democracy fragile. Jean-Marie Guéhenno, President & CEO @JGuehenno