ISLAMABAD – As a part of U.S. Embassy Islamabad’s participation in the international campaign “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence,” U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Tom Williams joined Pakistani representatives from the Islamabad and Karachi police departments, legal experts, academics, and civil society leaders to open a panel discussion entitled, “Towards Women-Friendly Policing.”
Panel participants discussed strategies for changing the mindset that hinders some Pakistani women from seeking help from police when they experience incidents of gender-based violence.
In his remarks, Chargé d’Affaires Williams said, “Access to justice is one necessary step toward eliminating domestic violence. It is incumbent on governments around the world to ensure that women feel safe in their homes and communities, have access to authorities and to mechanisms for redress.”
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) hosted the panel as a part of its Gender Equity Program. This initiative seeks to increase women’s access to justice in Pakistan by countering the barriers that exist in the justice system for women seeking legal redress for rape, domestic violence, property rights, or cyber stalking. Because they are often the first point of contact, panelists agreed that police should be encouraged to respond to victims with sympathy and not assign blame. This would be an important first step in making the justice system more open to women seeking help from police in their communities.
This is one of many programs sponsored by the U.S. Government to help promote women’s rights in Pakistan. Since 2010, the U.S. Embassy has awarded 185 grants to Pakistani organizations for programs such as creating helplines that have provided crucial information, referrals, and psychological and legal counseling to nearly 13,500 women. U.S.-funded programs have also supported 70,000 female-headed micro-businesses, and helped register more than 475,000 women for Computerized National ID Cards across all of Pakistan, enabling women to not only vote for the first time in the 2013 elections, but apply for loans and access health and education services for themselves and their children.
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