A staggering 32 per cent of women have experienced physical violence in Pakistan and 40 per cent of ever-married women have suffered from spousal abuse at some point in their life (The Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey 2012-2013). However, these statistics do not accurately represent the full extent of cases. One in two Pakistani women who have experienced violence never sought help or told anyone about the violence they had experienced.

While the Government of Pakistan has passed various laws to prevent violence and support those affected by it, the conviction rate for violence against women sits at only 1-2.5 per cent. Resources and services for women survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) remain scarce. Health services personnel are inadequately equipped, referral systems are limited, and insufficient training on GBV combined with low investment in human capital enhances the vulnerability of women. These gaps exist on the backdrop of a structurally and culturally patriarchal society, where social norms promote gender-based abuses, disclosure to violence is discouraged and women are often blamed for their abuse. The need to change minds and behaviors is immense, and it is within this landscape that Ujala continues to work toward change.

Preventing and addressing GBV

There are numerous barriers in the prevention of and response to GBV in Pakistan, including misperceptions around GBV, limited or ineffectual legislation and lack of support systems and safety nets for those who do attempt to seek support. Insufficient systems at the state, civil society and community levels are serious obstacles to comprehensively addressing GBV.

Ujala’s role

Ujala work in Pakistan strengthens the capacity of civil society partners and sensitize parliamentarians, media and all related stakeholders to prevent and respond to GBV. Ujala works in schools to promote gender-responsive and age-appropriate life skills-based education for in and out of school youth, covering topics such as equality, body protection, respecting diversity, respect and rights of both boys and girls.