LAHORE: Statistics revealed in the context of 16 Days of Activism against Violence Against Women that start on Nov 25 each year on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women show appallingly high rates of gender disparity and crimes against women in Pakistan.

In the International Gender Index 2015, Pakistan ranked 144th out of 145 countries. Pakistan’s ranking out of 145 countries in economic participation and opportunity is 143; educational attainment 135; health and survival 125, but for political empowerment 87.

Not much changed in 2016 either. The country now sits at 143rd position among 145 countries in economic participation, 143rd in educational attainment, 135th in health and survival and a 90th in political empowerment.

The Punjab Gender Parity Report 2016 and Gender Management Information System had revealed earlier this year that conviction rate in cases of violence against women was also very low. As many as 6,505 reported cases of violence in 2015 were registered in Punjab, but unfortunately only 1pc or 81 perpetrators were punished.

Aurat Foundation’s 2015 report also revealed startling figures. There were 1,619 cases of abduction and kidnapping, 47 acid throwing, 35 burning, 101 injury within domestic boundaries, 80 torture inside the house, 170 honour killing, 82 attempted kidnapping, 178 attempted murder, 251 attempted rape, 392 attempted suicide, 15 early marriage, five forced marriage, 75 harassment and 15 illegal harassment.

Furthermore, 25 incest cases, 171 injury outside the home, eight karo kari, 50 threat to life, 147 torture outside the home, 24 trafficking, 13 vani, 724 murder, 1,070 gang rape, 12 sexual assault, and 518 suicide were also reported in the same year. All of these cases were reported in Punjab with the most -- 1,158 – coming from Faisalabad.

AGHS Legal Aid Cell Media Coordinator Amina Hassan told Dawn the number of reports of violence against women only reflected the tip of the iceberg. Most cases were not reported. “For this very reason, we need effective data compilation and analysis of violence against women,” said Amina.

Aurat Foundation Provincial Monitoring Officer Abid Ali, who compiled the data, said violence against women could only be checked by ensuring that women were represented at decision-making forums, especially in political mainstream so that pro-women legislations were enacted.

AGHS Paralegal Training Director Aimen Bucha said blaming the victim or survivor was society’s most common reaction to violence against women instead of sympathising with them.

In 2016, the Punjab government took welcome steps to ensure constitutional provisions to safeguard women’s rights by introducing the violence against women law providing legal protection for victims as well as a toll-free number to report abuse and psychological and physiological support.

Published in Dawn November 26th, 2016