In an effort to root out the gender-based violence, the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) on Monday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with UKAID and other stakeholders and reaffirmed the pledge to ensure mainstreaming of women with disabilities. The MoU aims at joint collaboration of the NCSW, STEP, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and others.
According a report released by the National Commission of Human Rights (NCHR) in past three years, around 63,000 cases of gender-based violence (GBV) were reported in the country with some 4,000 being reported in the first half of 2020 when lockdowns were imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus.
It was stated that 80 per cent of these cases were related to domestic violence, while some 47 per cent of domestic rape where married women experienced sexual abuse. The NCSW in collaboration with STEP signed a strategy to cope with this overwhelming issue. Secretary NCSW Khawaja Imran Raza claimed that it has been committed by all relevant stakeholder and institutions that such discriminations would be eliminated as soon as possible, adding that it was an evident from the country’s endorsement of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) on September 25, 2008, later ratified on July 05, 2011.
During the debate that followed the signing ceremony, some guidelines on GBV established referral pathways and systems for mainstreaming women with disabilities in Pakistan. The consultation sought to foster collaboration and generate guidelines for GBV referral pathways that are dedicatedly designed to meet the unique needs and circumstances of women with disabilities. The consultation session focused on a comprehensive overview of Existing Referral System. Participants engaged in a reflective analysis of the current referral system and mechanisms addressing gender-based violence in Pakistan, in the context of women with disabilities.
Participants from a diverse array of stakeholders, including representatives from government bodies including Islamabad Police, Ministry of Human Rights, Federal Ombudsman Secretariat for Protection Against Harassment (FOSPAH), Ministry of Planning, Health Department, Police Training Center and shelter homes as well as experts on gender-based violence and representatives of media , Islamabad Bar Council and organizations working for the rights of women with disabilities attended the session. On the occasion, Zehra Kamal, a GBV expert, shared preliminary findings from the “Accessibility Assessment Study of GBV Service Providers for the discussions on finding effective solutions.
Shabana Arif from NCSW and Dilshad Pari from UNFPA facilitated a group exercise aimed at developing comprehensive guidelines for GBV referral pathways.
A STEP representative expressed sincere gratitude to all participants, stakeholders, and partners for active involvement in the transformative consultation session and reiterated STEP’s dedication to advocating for the rights and well-being of women with disabilities in Pakistan.