Faisalabad: Christians and Muslims in the streets, for a law against domestic violence
by Shafique Khokhar
Hundreds of people took part in yesterday's initiative, entitled "Protect women from violence." Abuses against women often occur in the family or with the tacit approval of the authorities. A problem arising from the culture and local tradition, which must be demolished by laws and a change of mentality.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - A new law against domestic violence and a regulation punishing abuses against women perpetrated by the state machinery and its officials, who should be prosecuted to the full and without hesitation. This is what hundreds of people have demanded - men and women, Christians and Muslims - taking to the streets yesterday in Faisalabad (Punjab), for a peaceful march to raise awareness, entitled "Protect women from violence." At the head of the procession was the Pakistani member of parliament Khalida Mansoor; the event is the result of joint work of Muslim-Christian personalities and was promoted by the human rights groups Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (Awam) and Peace and Human Development (PhD Foundation).

Speaking during the event, the Executive Secretary Awam Naseem Anthony said that "there is a general and widespread acceptance in society of a type of violence based on gender diversity." For this reason, it is not considered a "crime", but rather "an integral part of our [Pakistani] culture and the fate of women" in the country. Exacerbating the problems and behind all the stories of abuse and attacks, said the activist, are other factors such as "poverty, a conservative system, the dependence of women on men and religious extremism."

This was echoed by the director of PhD Foundation, Suneel Malik, who points the finger against forces in theory set up "to defend citizens", but who in many cases are "themselves involved in cases of gender-based violence in prisons or in shelters." Added to this is the widespread sense of "impunity," which perpetrates "inequalities against women and girls."

Interviewed by AsiaNews, Shazia George, a Christian activist, recalls instead the dramatic situation of "forced sterilization of women with disabilities", which she defines in no uncertain terms as a "despicable act." Also compounding the issue is that of "domestic violence," against which the government must enact ad hoc regulations. Opinions shared by the Muslim activist Mehwish Anam, of the Arada network, who calls for a "collective effort" by the media, educators, religious leaders and families, to "create a society alienated from gender discrimination and violence." On the contrary, she says, a "cohesive and strategic" approach would be desirable, on the part of government and civil society.