By Margaret Adamson
Globally, more than one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in some other way, most often by someone she knows including her partner or another male family member. Eliminating violence against women is a priority of the Australian Government and the Australian people. Australia’s citizen of the year in 2015 was Rosie Batty, a woman who had suffered years of domestic violence. Rosie has galvanised attention within Australia on domestic violence against women and girls, as well as boys and men. She is a courageous champion of all those who have suffered in this way, and by ensuring that domestic violence issues are openly discussed, has contributed to Government efforts to combat domestic violence in Australia.
Australia welcomes the focus on gender equality in the recently adopted United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has placed gender equality at the core of Australia’s foreign policy and overseas aid programme. Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals states: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
In recent years, Pakistan has passed a number of laws for the protection of women. In 2010 Pakistan’s parliament adopted the ‘Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Bill 2009’. Two additional bills were signed by the President in December 2012 criminalising the practices of vani, watta-satta, swara and marriage to the Holy Quran, which used women as tradable commodities for the settlement of disputes.
This year, the Government of Punjab took welcome steps to ensure constitutional provisions to safeguard women’s rights by introducing the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act (2016). This Act provides legal protection for victims, as well as a toll-free number to report abuse and psychological and physiological support. The government has further established a special task force in the interior Sindh for action against the practice of Karo-Kari, by establishing helplines and offices. And recently, a joint session of parliament also approved the Anti-Honour Killing Bill (2016) which introduces strict punishments for convicts and prohibits victims or their families from pardoning perpetrators.
Whether in Australia or in Pakistan, gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, it is foundational for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. In addition to its indirect consequences, violence against women imposes substantial direct costs on society through lost wages and productivity, demands on health care and social services, as well as criminal justice costs.
Australia’s development assistance partnership with Pakistan focuses on gender equality, including in supporting efforts and programmes to protect women from violence. Australia has invested AUD8.65 million to help improve access to support services, to assist efforts to change violent behaviour, to support strengthened implementation of policy and legislation and by promoting safe cities in Pakistan.
In addition to assisting measures that support women and girls, as in Australia, so in Pakistan we also encourage ‘the other half’ to speak out against and support an end to gender-based violence. Male champions for change are also important for promoting equal opportunities for women and girls.
Aside from government and development partners’ efforts, all over the world it is up to every member of their community to develop the approaches that will achieve gender equality and combat violence against women.
Violence against women and girls is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world. It is therefore not one woman’s or one man’s battle against violence; it is a battle involving all men and all women against injustice, inequality, discrimination, and oppression. It is a battle we fight together, women and men, globally, side by side.
The writer is Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan, she tweets Margaret Adamson @AusHCPak