LAHORE - Like other parts of the globe, International Women Day will be marked in Pakistan including Lahore today. Various seminars, sittings and functions will be held in this regard. The theme of the day is “Be bold for change”.

On the eve of day, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called upon the authorities to recognise the role of women activists and protect them from discrimination, harassment and attacks.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Commission said: “Women rights defenders are subject to the same types of risks as any human rights defender, but as women, they are more vulnerable particularly gender-specific violence are also targeted for or exposed to gender-specific threats.”

“Pakistan’s hostility towards human rights defenders, including women HRDs, is deeply worrying. In March 2016, Pakistan lobbied against a UN Human Rights Council resolution that sought greater protection for HRDs working in the fields of economic, social and cultural rights.

“Before that in December 2015, Pakistan was one of only 14 out of 193 states that voted against the UN General Assembly resolution on HRDs.”

On other instances, the HRCP statement said, Pakistan has actively worked to water down UN resolutions that have sought greater protection for women human rights defenders. “Numerous human rights defenders are killed, attacked or face other kinds of threats or harassment in Pakistan every year,” it added.

“On many international forums, Pakistan claims to be a ‘democratic and progressive country’ firmly committed to the ‘promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms’. But, the government must now follow up rhetoric with concrete action by publicly acknowledging the important and legitimate role of women human rights defenders in the promotion and protection of human rights, democracy, and rule of law,” the HRCP urged.

It further stressed that the government must also ensure that women HRDs are provided a secure and equal environment in which they can carry out their work without fear.

Provincial Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs Khalil Tahir Sandhu, in his message on the eve of 108th International Women’s Day, has saluted the courage and achievements of Pakistani women. He said that the Punjab government is committed to empower these women as they have an indispensable role in socio -economic development of our country. “The provincial government has also taken concrete measures in line with federal government to ensure promotion and protection of women’s rights as envisaged in the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

“Punjab has also enacted effective legislation to address women issues such as Women Protection Bill, skills development, educational scholarships, ensuring 15 percent quota of jobs for women, legislation against under age marriages, and 33 per cent representation in Boards of Governors of public sector institutions,” the minister added.

He urged all the authorities concerned to sincerely undertake legislative, administrative and social sector reforms to further create an enabling environment for women. Sandhu also appreciated the UN agencies and NGOs for their efforts for continuously advocating and highlighting the women’s rights.

Dean of the Lahore Cathedral Rev Shahid Miraj, in his message, underscored the need of utilising the women’s potential in progress of Pakistan.

He warned that denying the rights of women and girls would have serious social and economic impacts on the progress and prosperity in the country. “Gender equality and gender parity is need of the hour and our policies should be made to achieve the gender parity in Pakistan,” he added.