ISLAMABAD: Around 20,000 cases of human trafficking and domestic violence occurred in the country last year and 92 per cent of the cases related to women and girls, experts highlighted at a seminar held here on Tuesday.
The seminar was informed that women and girls were disproportionately impacted by human trafficking problem, and global estimates indicated that women and girls constituted up to 80 per cent of people trafficked globally and more than 60 per cent of those trafficked belonged to Asia.
The seminar titled “Together to combat trafficking of women and girls” was organised by the UN Women Pakistan, in collaboration with National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) and Kashf Foundation.
Women, girls constitute 92 per cent of victims, seminar told
A representative of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) informed participants of the seminar that Pakistani women were not only being trafficked from poverty-stricken areas of southern Punjab and Balochistan, but also from major cities such as Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad.
He said that recently some young Pakistani women were also trafficked to China on the pretext of marriage.
Experts were of the view that the issue was of immense importance and, therefore, it needed to be tackled at all levels, including by raising awareness among the masses.
Jamshed Kazi, the Country Representative of UN Women Pakistan, said that Pakistan had prioritised protection of women’s rights as human rights. He said that strategies had been developed to combat violence against women, but there were more challenges that need to be tackled.
“One of these challenges is trafficking of women and girls, which rarely gets the attention it deserves. In order to successfully tackle this serious problem, we need to work towards changing social norms and behaviour in a transformative way,” he said.
He said that in order to create awareness among the masses about this problem one such initiative was a TV drama serial on trafficking of women and girls recently shown on a TV channel.
Speakers including officials, diplomats, representative of civil society and media persons highlighted difficulties they were encountering to ascertain the exact number of girls and women trafficked in the country for domestic labour, forced marriage or sexual exploitation etc.
However, they said, available data indicated that traffickers were not always strangers but they could be family members, friends or acquaintances.
“Victims of trafficking are often lured on the pretext of better employment, marriages, better economic prospects or simply kidnapped from outside their houses or public places for this purpose,” they said.
The age of women and girls trafficked ranged between two years and 50 years, the seminar was informed.
The speakers also highlighted that such crimes needed to be curbed to further progress in delivering Sustainable Development Goals by Pakistan.
The seminar comprised two panel discussions. The first discussion was on the topic of “Trafficking of women and girls in Pakistan – a discussion on the issue, legislative framework, and what is being done to address it”.
Panelists for this session were Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women; Dr Riffat Sardar, Chairperson of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Commission on the Status of Women; Riaz Janjua of Anti-Human Trafficking Circle of Federal Investigation Authority (FIA), and Maliha Zia Lari, lawyer and human rights activist of Legal Aid Society, Karachi.
Experts during the discussion noted that survivors of the trafficking required protection, help and support, access to remedies, and safe return and re-integration into their communities with dignity and respect. The participants said that law-enforcement agencies and other service providers must be prepared and able to adequately respond to the issue and support survivors and work in border communities to mitigate the impact of these crimes.
The second panel discussion focused on “Shaping Mindsets through Media”.
Panelists for this discussion were Roshaneh Zafar, Managing Director of Kashf Foundation; Moneeza Hashmi, TV and media personality; Amina Mufti, dramatist; and Saman Ahsan, Portfolio Manager, Governance, Human Rights and Ending Violence against Women, UN Women Pakistan. TV host Tauseeq Haider was moderator.
The participants of the discussion agreed that drama serial was an important medium which could progressively change mindsets towards the problem.
Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2019