‘Pak minority women face sexual harassment’

Last Updated: Thursday, March 15, 2012 - 19:38

Lahore: Almost three-quarters of women from
Pakistan`s minority communities have faced sexual harassment
while 43 per cent complained of religious discrimination at
workplaces, educational institutions and neighbourhoods,
according to a new report.

The report, prepared by the National Commission for
Justice and Peace, states that about 74 per cent of the women
faced sexual harassment.

"Some 27 per cent minority women (Christians and Hindus)
faced discrimination in admissions to educational institutions
and were forced to take Islamic studies in the absence of any
alternative subject," NCJP executive director Peter Jacob
said.

The report came following a survey in 26 districts of
Punjab and Sindh, the two provinces where 95 per cent of the
minorities live.

Jacob said the study looked into the social, political and
economic conditions of the minority women with the help of a
baseline survey.

"As many as 1,000 Hindu and Christian women were
interviewed. The two communities form 92 per cent of the
entire minority population in Pakistan," he said.

The study reviewed literature available on minority women.
Issues such as legal disparity, review of personal laws
for minorities, religious and gender biases, forced
conversions, lack of policy focus and segregated data were
part of this study that focussed on everyday life of the
minority women, Jacob said.

The survey revealed that only 47 per cent of minority
women were educated, lower than the national average of 57 per
cent, and far behind urban literacy among women, which was
above 65 per cent.

The data showed a higher infant mortality rate among
minorities than the national ratio.

Jacob said the living and economic conditions of the
women, assessed through income, savings, health and education,
also placed them on the margins of social and economic
development.

"Though 55 per cent of the minority women saw the social
environment as conducive to multi-religious living, around 62
per cent of respondents were of the view that in the wake of a
religious disturbance like those in Shantinagar (Khanewal),
Gojra, Korian and Sialkot, a majority of people would not
stand with them," he said.

Besides stressing a thorough review of laws and policies
to root out religious and gender discrimination, the study
said the lack of official data on minorities hampered civil
society and government in assessing development and making
interventions to improve conditions and bring minority women
to the mainstream.

The study, while noting discrimination related to the
Constitution, Hudood Ordinance, blasphemy laws, personal laws
and education policy and curriculum, and analysing the
consequences of these discriminations, recommended practical
policy corrections and institutional ways to improve the
integration of minority women and safeguarding their rights.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, March 15, 2012 - 17:59

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