Tag Archive | "UNSCR 1325"

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Our Women Police on the Alert in Pakistan

Posted on 08 July 2014 by

This article was originally posted on Pakistan Horizon, the blog of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs.

Police Woman, Sindh, Pakistan

Police Woman, Sindh, Pakistan

They looked quite impressive in their dark grey uniforms, those women policy officers, whose appointment and career Aurat Foundation celebrated in an event on 3 July 2014. They included the first woman district police officer in Pakistan, Naseem Ara Panhwer, who is credited with countering dacoits (bandits) on her beat, and finding her way well into criminal gangs; Shehla Qureshi, assistant superintendent of police in the Frere area of Karachi, resplendent in her slightly different unifrom as she came into the police force through the government’s competitive examination; Azra Memon, assistant deputy inspector general of traffic in Karachi; Masuma Changezi, who is superintendent of police traffice also in Karachi; and Hajra Sabiha, who is the station house officer (SHO) of the Artillery Maidan women’s police station in the heart of Karachi.

Although some of the officers mentioned above are senior, the most significant appointments are those of two station house officers in charge of all-male police stations in Karachi, Ghazala Siddiqui who holds charge of the Clifton police station and Inspector Zaibun Nisa, chief of Bahadurabad police station. The station house officer is the lynchpin of the policing system and the original power lies with her or him because the police station is the very place where the community interacts with the police. In Urdu and local languages, the police station is called a “thana”, a word which evokes fear and apprehension.

Deputy Inspector General Abdul Khalique Shaikh spoke to us about the journey of the Sindh police in deciding to give these crucial responsibilities to women police officers. He said that, in terms of sheer numbers, the percentage of women in our police force is negligible. There are 450,000 plus men in the police force in Pakistan, and only 4000 or so women police, that is, roughly less then one per cent. The Sindh police were keen that not only should the number of women in the force be increased, but that they should be entrusted with significant and effective roles, and not marginal roles. As a general rule, they are posted mostly in women’s police stations and are used as escorts for women prisoners, when women are arrested or when raids are conducted, especially in houses where families are present. The police bosses felt that from their marginalised position the women police should be brought into the mainstream into roles where they could address the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898. But would their colleagues in the police force and members of the community accept their authority?

Many barriers had to be crossed. It was necessary that in decision-making circles there should exist no prejudice against women occupying positions traditionally held by men, especially in a hardened force like the police, and that there should be faith in their ability to perform as well, if not better, than men. Abdul Khalique Shaikh and his superiors had this faith, and felt that it was time to take the next big step. Initially, they thought it would be prudent to create safe beats where women could be groomed as station house officers for a few months and then moved to actual police stations. But they gave up this idea and decided to go ahead without taking preliminary precautions. Abdul Khalique Shaikh looks forward to the day when he can recruit women in large numbers not only as officers but also as ordinary constables.

Still, some encouragement and persuasion was needed. Ghazala Siddiqui, the first woman station house officer, told us how she had to be reassured that her superiors would stand by her if she made mistakes but Inspector Zaibun Nisa, who holds charge of Bahadurabad police station within whose remit my own house is located, apparently offered to become a station house officer herself. On taking charge of her office, she put an end to routine corruption, sidelined the “beaters” (beaters are persons who collect money from the community) of her station and put four of them in jail, closed down “shisha” dens and proscribed “gutka”, an addiction which is the curse of many people. Unlike the prevailing culture of the thana, she stopped all food coming in from neighbourhood restaurants and snack bars. As one of her constables told me recently, “Madam is very strict”. It is significant that all the women officers said that they continue to receive support from their superiors and none of them complained of criticism from the members of the community on account of their being women.

As we listened to how these women confronted crime, which now includes bomb blasts and other terrorist activities, and managed traffic on the vehicle-laden roads and streets of Karachi, a city of 20 million people, our focus shifted to the person who represented decision-making in the Sindh police, Abdul Khalique Shaikh, and he became the eventual hero of our event. We were overjoyed when he told us that a woman police officer would soon be appointed as “muharir” ( the one who records complaints) in a thana in Karachi. The entire team of Aurat Foundation joined hands to give him, with applause and cheers, the last shield of the day.

In my final remarks, I focused on the work and career of these women police officers in the backdrop of the women’s movement in Pakistan. Their numbers may be negligible in the total police force in Pakistan, but for the women’s movement their appointment has been a giant step forward. That the police administration made these decisions was the result of many factors ― urbanisation, social change and social motility, education and the effect of the affirmative action with respect to women’s rights taken by successive governments. Sindh, with its more open and urbanised culture, has been the leader in legislation favouring women’s rights but we must not forget that the decision makers in this case have all been men.

Aurat Foundation, which has struggled for women’s empowerment since 1986, has always worked along with men in all its programmes. Unlike some other associations operating in the field of women’s rights, it has never followed a policy of confrontation with men as a genre. We were fortunate that we had the support of enlightened and educated men in all our endeavours. The earlier presidents of our Board of Governors ― before me ― were all men. Some of our leading executives are men and our citizens’ action committees in various districts comprise both women and men. The collaboration of our men colleagues has opened for us many doors in remote and conservative areas where access was difficult and tradition prevailed.

Therefore, it was a pleasure for me to thank DIG Abdul Khalique Shaikh and the male heirarchy in the Sindh police for taking the bold decision to empower women police officers. I thanked the Sindh government and could not resist acknowledging Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, for had he represented patriarchy in its traditional sense, these decisions could not have been made. How could it have been otherwise, though, for the Pakistan Peoples Party carries the legacy of Benazir Bhutto, in whose tenure the first women’s police stations were established in Pakistan?

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Women Activists Convene in Amman to Discuss Arab Spring & Democratic Transition

Posted on 18 November 2011 by

WLP International spoke with Asma Khader, Secretary General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women and General Coordinator of Sisterhood is Global Institute/Jordan, about the outcomes of a conference in Amman convened by the SALMA network from October 27-29, 2011, where she shared Jordan’s recent experience with constitutional reform. Over 60 NGO leaders and women activists gathered from 14 Arab countries, including Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, among others, to discuss women’s involvement  in democratic transition as well as Jordan’s recent constitutional amendments.

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A Feminist Perspective on Nigeria’s Jos Crisis

Posted on 18 February 2011 by

Over the past five years there has been an escalation of sectarian violence in the Middle-Belt Zone of Nigeria. In the North-Central city of Jos, the army sent to protect, and the residents supposedly acting on behalf of their respective religious communities, have carried out extreme acts of violence against innocent victims. In the month of January of 2011, there have already been over 200 victims.

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Where Is the Primacy of International Law in Transitional Countries like Kyrgyzstan?

Posted on 09 September 2010 by

Remarks delivered by Tolekan Ismailova, Director, Human Rights Center “Citizens against Corruption” on September 02, 2010 in Barcelona, Spain

“Human rights violations related to the recent tragic events in Kyrgyzstan and implications for the implementation of Helsinki commitments”

For a start, let me say that I would like to dedicate my speech to the thousands of people who have suffered injustice during the tragic events that occurred in Kyrgyzstan in April, May and June 2010. People who lost relatives and friends, people who were injured, people who were left without homes and means to exist, missing persons, victims of sexual and physical abuse, homeless children and orphans…

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Violence and Trauma: A Forgotten Risk

Posted on 01 July 2010 by

My colleague Usha posted a few weeks ago about the role of radio in violence and reconciliation in Rwanda. Something jarred me. Something that tends to be buried most of the time nowadays beneath an arguably geeky enthusiasm for UN Security Council resolution 1325 and its progeny and potential for implementation. Somehow, in two years of working together I hadn’t shared with Usha that, for a brief period in 2003-2004, as a law student I worked on efforts to prosecute the widespread sexual violence that took place during the genocide that ravaged Rwanda ten years earlier. Talking about that tends to create for me a very visceral reminder of why I do this work, why I feel so strongly about supporting women survivors of violence in times of conflict, and doing everything we can to raise accountability and prevent of these acts, whether opportunistic or systematic.

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Badges, Blue Helmets, and “Women’s Work”

Posted on 22 June 2010 by

The UN recently reaffirmed its commitment to increasing women’s participation in peacebuilding and conflict-resolution with specific targets set for the organization’s police force: By 2014 the UN hopes to double the number of women serving globally as UN police officers (UNPOL). In response to the UN’s call, Bangladesh plans to send an additional 10,000 female officers.

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Women and Children Bear the Brunt of Violence in Southern Kyrgyzstan

Posted on 16 June 2010 by

With the growing human rights crisis and ethnic violence taking place in southern Kyrgyzstan, Tolekan Ismailova of WLP’s partner in Kyrgyzstan, Human Rights Center “Citizens against Corruption” (CAC) is currently in the conflict zone in Osh with a group of human rights defenders, journalists, and Ombudsman representatives visiting local communities, providing humanitarian aid and clean-up, and working to mediate ethnic tensions.

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UNSCR 1325: Strategies to Bring Women into Peace Negotiations

Posted on 22 October 2009 by

Michelle Page, Tobie Whitman, & Cecilia Anderson
October 2009

New strategy guide from Hunt Alternatives Fund’s Institute for Inclusive Security

As leaders in civil society, particularly during and following violent conflict, women are critical players in peace negotiations. In formal negotiations, they raise often-ignored political and social issues, ensure that the voices of victims and civilians are consistently heard, and build bridges among negotiating parties. They also have a solid record of successfully bringing together representatives of opposing factions in unofficial talks. Yet women remain the largest group of stakeholders regularly excluded from official negotiation processes.

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