The Centre of Excellence for Women’s Studies (CEWS), University of Karachi (KU), in collaboration with the Ministry of Human Rights (MoHR) organized a workshop on awareness raising and sensitization on Human Rights at Arts and Social Sciences Auditorium on Monday.

The Deputy Director, the Ministry of Human Rights, Muhammad Arif, informed the audience about the importance of human rights and said that we must treat like human beings as we are the best creatures. He stated that we should have a set of principles to avoid violations, and informed people to protect their own selves in a way to secure human rights.

He shared that everyone is equal under the eyes of the law, but privileged classes exist in every segment of life that is against the constitution and must be subjected to the law. He shared the example that Islamabad ranked third on child sexual abuse in the country, and questioned how could we eliminate this menace from society?.

Muhammad Arif explained that the communication gap between parents and children must be reduced as they can talk over issues and get aware parents about violence-related matters, or if this is not possible then the child should be confident and aware of police and enforcement law agencies as they can talk to them easily about matters related to sexual abuse.

He also shared the success stories of women by giving references to Jhansi ki Rani and Hani of Baloch community who fought for women, children’s rights, and families and killed a number of culprits in history. He also emphasized that it is the moral duty of citizens to protect the minority rights of people who belong to different religions and ethnicities.

Muhammad Arif informed that under the Prevention of Anti-Women Practice Act, 2011 perpetrator is punishable by imprisonment and a fine of Rs1 million. “For instance the case in which women marriage with Quran observed, such culprits and facilitators, will be prisoned for a lifetime.” He informed about the purpose of marriage with the Quran, that women may not able to receive inheritance or property.

He urged women to initiate their political participation in local government systems in a way to reach the policy-making process and make a change in society. He concluded that MoHR is cognizant to resolve issues like fundamental rights, inheritance, divorce, family laws, and other related matters.

Meanwhile, the Director, Sindh Region, Regional Directorate of Human Rights, Karachi, Iqbal Pasha, informed that MoHR deals in various matters related to human rights are explored and work over them, especially the national commission on the status of women, national commission on children are actively working in a way to uplift their status in the society and eliminate all menace and abusive environment to make society prosperous for the citizens of Pakistan.

He informed that 5,500 cases have been received directly from the ministry, non-governmental organizations, and individuals, as the investigation team reach out to the victims and offenders, to sort the matters and provide justice to the innocent. He also acknowledged that Rs20,000/- was given to the victim in all such scenarios.

Iqbal Pasha said that the public has many constitutional rights that include equal protection of the law, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, inviolability of dignity of man, freedom of speech, equality among citizens, preservation of language, script, and culture, freedom of trade, business, and profession, right to education, and so many. He further said that we must allow cultures to be flourished, as diversity is a natural process.

On the other hand, the Assistant Director, Ministry of Human Rights, Adeel Akbar, informed the audience about Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Act, 2020 in which immediate actions will be taken against child sexual abuse in order to protect children in the country.

The speakers mentioned that there are many United Nations international human rights laws that are part of the Constitution of Pakistan that includes the UDHR 30 articles, including UN Human Rights Conventions such as the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women.

They mentioned that MoHR also sorts out matters related to property and inheritance, where females are deprived of this right, the complaint can be lodged to the ministry for settling the matter. In this regard, cases related to inheritance will be solved within months, and get their due rights and informed that women have specific shares and can receive an inheritance in terms of mother, daughter, and wife.

They also informed about Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010, in which the remedies are provided in order to protect women at the workplace, if the case is proven against the offender then he is liable under minor and major penalties.

Earlier, the Dean Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Professor Dr Nusrat Idress said that human rights are the basic rights of every human being. These universal rights are inherent to us all, regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status.

She added that they range from the most fundamental – the right to life – to those that make life worth living, such as the rights to food, education, work, health, and liberty. All human rights are indivisible and interdependent.

Professor Dr Nusrat Idress said that it means that one set of rights cannot be enjoyed fully without the other. For example, making progress in civil and political rights makes it easier to exercise economic, social, and cultural rights. Similarly, violating economic, social, and cultural rights can negatively affect many other rights.

According to her, this workshop was aimed to create human rights awareness in targeted academic institutes to improve democracy and leadership, facilitate access to justice and enable people to know their rights as humans.

She said that the KU CEWS and MoHR would like to increase the people’s understanding and knowledge about respect for human rights, sensitize them regarding human rights issues as well as create awareness of international human rights principles, protection mechanisms, and democratic governance for a peaceful society and to promote tolerance and respect for human rights and inter-faith harmony to combat religious intolerance for a peaceful society

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Arshad Yousafzai is a Karachi-based journalist covering Education and Human Rights. He can be reached on Twitter @Arshadyousafzay

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