The women’s movement has been making steady progress over the years, but this is more evident in the more privileged classes, while the women belonging to the middle- and lower-income groups have not benefited significantly from it, said senior journalist Zubeida Mustafa on Sunday.
She mentioned Kazim Saeed’s book ‘Dou Pakistan’, and shared her observation that this disparity appears the worst in the education system. She was speaking at the launch of ‘Criminal Abuse of Women and Children in Pakistan’, which she had reviewed.
Published by the Pakistan Association for Mental Health, it was launched at their event held to mark World Mental Health Day. Speakers shared their thoughts during the programme, with rights activists, members of the civil society and health scientists calling for joint efforts, along with effective legislation, to ensure the rights of women and discourage violence against them.
The book was introduced by Nausheen Ahmed, the principal author of the book, which was dedicated to the late IA Rehman for his lifelong struggle for human rights. Quoting Rehman, she said that legislation alone cannot protect women’s rights, as long as misogyny remains the dominating mindset among the public.
She said that according to a report from the Sustainable Social Development Organisation, in the first three months of 2020 the incidence of gender-based violence had increased by 200 per cent.
She also said that social media is the newest tool for humiliating women, and that there are no boundaries to the vulgarity of its content. Sara Malkani pointed out that the protection of victims who decide to use the criminal justice system is an important area that requires attention, and that the victims who pursue their cases have a strong support system provided by the NGOs. In fact, she stressed, it should be the state that provides protection to the victims.
She also spoke about the benefits of the restorative justice approach, rather than punishment, saying that the victims often pursue a criminal justice approach because they have no other option available to them. This is a community-supported, mediation approach, she explained.
Nazish Brohi in her presentation suggested that in case of the crimes against women, we need to look at a different realm, such as the offenders’ or perpetrators’ psychological profiles. She said that there needs to be more collaboration between mental health professionals and sociologists working on these issues.
She also said that increasing punishment for the perpetrators alone is not helpful because most cases do not even reach the punishment stage — the actual conviction rate is two per cent.
Moreover, she pointed out, the main hurdle recently has been the court system, rather than the police. She said that there is difficulty in reporting also, with a likelihood of more cases being reported against strangers, rather than relatives, etc. Also, the victims are usually reluctant to disclose the accurate details of the incident, she added.
Later, the speakers mainly associated with medical science and mental health shared their thoughts related to the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day: ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’.
Dr Uzma Ambareen spoke briefly on the topic emphasising the disparity between the haves and have-nots throughout the world that has been further highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Naim Siddiqi spoke about the unhealthy lifestyles adopted by the people during the pandemic, including the increased use of mobile phones and computer, disturbed sleep patterns and reduced physical activity.
However, he said, in some international studies, it appears that lifestyles became healthier once people had more knowledge about dealing with Covid-19. He highlighted the fact that the changes in lifestyles due to the pandemic are different in rich and poor countries, and hence the solutions must also be different.
Dr Iqbal Afridi, meritorious professor of psychiatry, spoke about the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle, including talking to someone when under stress and journaling one’s own feelings.
He emphasised the need for ensuring balanced nutrition, adequate water intake, regular exercise, rational use of mobile phone and computer, avoiding harmful substances and regulating the sleep-wake schedule. He also introduced the free tele-psychiatry service developed by the Pakistan Psychiatric Society.