Speakers calls for women’s easy access to justice to end gender-based violence

Islamabad: The speakers at a panel discussion called gender-based violence a ‘public safety crisis’ and emphasized the need for women’s easy access to justice and implementation of laws protecting vulnerable communities.

The discussion titled ‘Ending gender-based violence: Challenges, strategies, and resources’ was organized by the US embassy here at the mission in Islamabad.

Director, Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, Lori J. Antolinez said the United States was advancing a comprehensive, government-wide effort to prevent and address sexual and gender-based violence. In this regard, she stressed a holistic approach that encompassed prevention, well-being, economic security, housing stability, online safety, and legal and justice systems. In Pakistan, she said, the U.S. embassy was, in particular, implementing four programmes that specifically addressed gender-based violence. These programs increase women’s access to justice through improved law enforcement response to gender-based violence and extending services to the survivors, she added. “More women working in the criminal justice sector will lead to better services for women and an overall improvement in women’s access to justice,” she said.

Antolinez highlighted that the U.S. embassy supported Pakistan’s efforts to increase women’s recruitment, retention, and advancement across the criminal justice sector to build a representative and responsive police force and justice system. Already, the services include increasing the number of women police in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by over 20 percent, she added. She mentioned that the Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) partnered with the Anti-Narcotics Force to develop its gender strategy, which commits to having 20 percent women in its workforce by 2030. “We want to maintain this momentum and expand our efforts throughout Pakistan so victims of crime can access the justice services they need,” she said. She said that given the media’s role in raising awareness, INL was conducting training for journalists to shape a narrative on the protection of survivors, including rape victims, rather than vilifying them.

Executive Director at Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell, Nida Aly said gender-based violence was experienced by individuals from all backgrounds and could occur at any point in a person’s life. She said the factors contributing to gender-based violence included women’s lack of representation in the justice sector and workforce, low literacy rate, limited access to justice, and non-implementation of laws protecting women and vulnerable communities. She said the government of Pakistan was working extensively on the legislative of rights protection, however, emphasized the need for its implementation.

Mission Spokesperson Jonathan Lalley moderated the panel discussion that aimed at educating and informing the public about the root causes of gender-based in Pakistan, the current country-wide scenario, and where and how to access resources and support. The students of gender studies, journalism and law programmes from Fatima Jinnah Women University, National Defence University, and the National University of Science and Technology attended the panel discussion.