ISLAMABAD: One woman is raped every two hours in Pakistan, where the rate of violence against women is much higher than in other countries, Australian Deputy High Commissioner Brek Batley said at an event on Tuesday.

Mr Batley was addressing the launch of a report titled Essential Service Package for Women and Girls Subject to Violence.

The Essential Service Package (ESP) is a global United Nations programme that aims to provide greater access to a coordinated set of essential and quality multi-sectoral services for all women and girls who have experienced gender-based violence.

Report launched on UN programme to increase access to coordinated services for survivors of gender-based violence

In Pakistan, ESP is implemented through collaboration between UNWomen, the UN Population Fund, the World Health Organisation, the UN Development Programme and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

It identifies essential services to be provided by health, social services, police and justice sector stakeholders and provides a set of guidelines to improve coordination of essential services in the country.

Mr Batley said that although violence against women and girls persists across the globe - one out of every three women has faced violence throughout their lives - figures in Pakistan are much higher.

He gave the example of Australia, where one woman is killed by her partner or former partner every week.

“I am so pleased that a number of legislations have been made in Pakistan, and now men and boys are being involved in a struggle to stop violence against women. It is right of women to live free from violence. However, coordination among all agencies and stakeholders is required to get a long-term impact,” he said.

Mr Batley said that civil society is critical for change regarding gender equality, adding that Australia was proud to be one of the founding donors of the UN ESP programme in Pakistan. The country committed AUD 4.5 million across 10 pilot countries to help improve the quality of services provided to survivors of violence, he said.

Ministry of Human Rights Director General Mohammad Hassan Mangi said the elimination of gender-based violence is a high priority for the government.

“We want to implement all international recommendations. We have 100 laws regarding children and 80 laws regarding women-related violence. However, there is an issue of implementation of those laws. The implementation of policies is a challenge because we are very good at making laws but th allocation of funds to implement the laws always remains an issue,” he said.

During her welcome address UN Women Deputy Country Representative Aisha Mukhtar said: “We know how difficult it is for survivors to have access to high quality services including health, justice and policing, and social services including shelter homes/Darul Amans. We also know that the most challenging part of gender-based violence response services is the weak coordination between different sectors that makes a survivor’s journey more difficult. ESP is all about enhancing GBV survivors’ access to a coordinated set of multi-sectoral services including social services, justice and policing, and health.”

“Today we are starting with social services and will have a combined consultation with representatives of all sectors for effective implementation of global guidelines and protocols in Pakistan,” she added.

Balochistan Social Welfare Department Secretary Abdul Rauf Baloch said that the provincial government is very clear on the issue of violence against women, adding: “We are going to establish a Darul Aman in Naseerabad. A child protection centre and women’s rights directorate will also be established soon.”

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2019