ISLAMABAD - The National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSA) Wednesday held a seminar on role of jirga in perpetuating violence against women in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). The seminar was first of its kind in the history of the region, as the topic is largely considered a taboo. The event was attended by a large number of people representing government’s institutions, legislatures, police, academia, NGOs, media and civil society. Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly Speaker Wazir Baig was the chief guest, whereas Deputy Speaker Jamil Ahmed attended the event as guest of honour. Eminent personalities known for their knowledge, struggle and expertise on laws and gender issues were invited to address the audience. Justice (r) Nasira Iqbal, NCSW Chairperson Anis Haroon, Programme Manager Operations Sofia Noreen, Manager Communication and Advocacy Tahira Noor NCSW, Israr Hussain from HRCP GB chapter, AKRSP PM GAD Yasmeen Karim and VADO Executive Director Karamat ullah also spoke on the occasion.
Tahira Noor welcomed the participants and said several national and international treaties and commitments had been agreed upon to prevent violence against women, adding that their immediate implementation letter and spirit was required. Israr Hussain presented facts and findings about the violence against women in the region and highlighted the factors that contribute in persistent trend. “Crimes against women like rape, honour killing, forced marriages, murder, suicide and harassment are very much rampant in our society but media is not vibrant or sensitise enough to highlight them and pave the way for law enforcement agencies to apprehend the culprits and bring them to book.” Justice (R) Nasira Iqbal talked about ending violence against women, Pakistan history and women’s rights and highlighted the issues revolving around women. She stressed the need of changing the mindset of people and asked women’s studies and universities to play their role. She spoke about Islam and history about women’s rights - like that of marriage by her own will - and asked media and parliamentarians to relay the message, create awareness movements and educate people through radio messages.
Sofia Noreen discussed the role of civil society, media, lawyers, political parties and religious groups in eliminating the violence against women. She said staying silent was not an answer. “Everybody should break the culture of silence and speak up, only then people will be able to realise and recognise women’s rights.” Anis Haroon talked about the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act 2010 and Women Protection Act 2006. She urged the Gilgit-Baltistan government to setup Women’s Development Ministry and Provincial Commission on the Status of Women, which was already in place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The speaker and deputy speaker of GB Assembly were unanimous in their call to end all sorts of crimes against women. “The women of our region enjoy special status as mothers, sisters and daughters in our families, communities and cultural systems, and we will not tolerate any injustice or inhuman attitudes towards them.”