LAHORE: The Punjab Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) successfully rescued a 19-year old Pakistani girl from confinement by her parents and other members of her family in Lahore.

Reportedly, the girl was brought to Pakistan from Italy in February 2018 for 10 days, under false pretenses of her brother’s engagement. It later transpired that her parents wished to marry her off against her will.

While in Italy, her father had put a stop to her studies. The Italian Embassy informed the PCSW chairperson about the matter with the request to ensure safety of the girl, while the Ministry of Interior continuously followed up and provided assurance of full support. The Embassy will support the girl in case she wishes to return to Italy, where she has resided for the past 10 years.

The PCSW team and Garhi Shahu SHO located the girl’s address and recovered her, after which she was transported to a secure location. She is adamant to go back to Italy and continue her studies, so that she may pursue a career path of her own choice. The girl is safe and relieved that the PCSW, the Punjab police and the Italian Embassy reacted swiftly to rescue her.

In the last five years, several laws for protection of women have been passed by the Punjab Assembly as well as the National Assembly of Pakistan. These laws aim to curb the incidence of honour crimes, forced marriages, deprivation of inheritance, domestic violence, trafficking of women and children, and sexual violence against women.

Furthermore, the Punjab government has taken multiple initiatives for the protection and empowerment of women, and is stringently implementing them. These include establishment of dedicated institutions such as the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, a woman ombudsperson against workplace harassment, women’s shelters in every district, a toll-free 24/7 helpline for women, through which women are made aware of their rights and redress mechanisms.

The helpline has established coordination mechanisms with the police to ensure rapid response and sensitive service delivery to survivors of violence. Through the helpline, women can also lodge complaints and grievances against government offices.

The PCSW also initiated the “Transitional Home for Women” project to provide shelter, skills based and vocational training to survivors of violence, and job placement to women who are survivors of violence, so that they can be independent and cater to their own needs themselves.

Fauzia Viqar, chairperson of the Punjab Commission, expressed her appreciation for seamless coordination among various government agencies to ensure the safety and protection of a woman. She also greatly appreciated support of the Italian Embassy.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2018

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