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Domestic violence emerging as silent pandemic in Pakistan, says ADB report

Courtesy: Dawn News

ISLAMABAD: Domestic violence is emerging as a silent pandemic in Pakistan, posing a serious challenge to society and the state, points out a study report published by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The report, Gendered Impacts of the Covid-19 Pandemic in Central and West Asia, quoted a recent survey carried out in Punjab and Sindh which reported an increase in incidence of threats of physical violence (40 per cent) and physical assault from spouses (46pc).

Moreover, 14pc of surveyed women knew someone in their community who was threatened with physical harm by their husband, 19pc knew someone who was physically assaulted by her husband, and 27pc knew cases where children were beaten by their parents.

The study aims to shed light on the extent of the impact of the pandemic, highlighting initiatives and emerging results from policy and public investments, particularly ADB projects in nine of the ten countries in Central and West Asia (CWA): Afghan­istan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Gendered data on COVID-19 cases and deaths are neither widely available nor updated in all countries across the region.

Restrictions, economic hardships blamed for increase in violence

According to the report, development partners in Pakistan also stressed that the rate of violence against women and girls (VAWG) increased significantly due to loss of livelihoods and restrictions, highlighting the importance of a change of narrative in the country.

The report says that countries where agriculture is one of the main sectors of employment for women include Pakistan, Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan, and in these countries, stakeholders underlined the need to pay more attention to women’s terms of inclusion in agriculture. Policies related to land, agriculture extension services, and technology should be designed and implemented in gender-responsive ways.

Stakeholders belonging to various sectors of society highlighted the need to develop and strengthen women’s entrepreneurship as a top priority. The importance of the private sector and the role it can have in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment was also repeatedly emphasised.

One of the main measures that was highlighted in all countries, especially in Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, is the need to design and strengthen programmes that aim at developing women’s capacity to grow their businesses through integrated loan and training programmes, while helping them to transition from microfinance to standard banking.

It is essential to develop social protection programmes that support unpaid caregivers and that avoid penalising women for this role. These and other recommendations should be taken into consideration when designing and expanding social protection programmes.

In this regard, the reported cited example of BISP in Pakistan and the programmes that are being implemented under its umbrella could benefit from a reflection on the opportunity of unconditional cash transfer systems that weaken gender stereotypes and that avoid creating additional care-related burdens for women.

The lack of gender strategies and gender equality laws was also underlined in some countries, such as Pakistan, while in countries where institutional and legal frameworks for gender equality exist, improved implementation and intra-governmental coordination was called for.

The report says the response of governments to these gender-related challenges has not been encouraging.

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