FAISALABAD - Legislation against domestic violence and the violence perpetuated by the state machinery against women must be passed to declare such acts as crime, demanded speakers during a rally held in connection with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Titled 'Protect Women against Violence', the rally was taken out by the Peace and Human Development Foundation and the Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation in collaboration with Aitbar Foundation, CARE Foundation, ASDP, ARADA Network, RASTA Network and LEHR Network.

The rally was led by MNA Khalida Mansoor. AWAM Director Nazia Sardar said, "The government has set up crisis centres to protect women from violence, but funds are not being released to the centres. Women face economic exploitation and violence. Their wages are far lower than that of men. The govt must legally recognise the unrecognised women workers engaged in informal sectors including home-based workers, peasants and domestic workers as part of the labour force, and must ratify the ILO conventions protecting rights of home-based workers."

AWAM coordinator Shazia George said, "Forced sterilisation of women with disabilities is a horrible act, which causes reproductive inability in them. The violence in the domestic sphere is also objectionable.

Therefore, the government must pass legislation protecting women against domestic violence." The executive secretary of the AWAM, Naseem Anthony, said, "Acceptance of violence is the root cause of violence against women.

Violence is a serious violation of human rights but majority of people do not recognise a many forms of gender-based violence as crime in Pakistan, and consider it a part of our culture and fate of the women."

Aitbar Foundation leader Nasreen Bukhari said, "The passage of pro-women legislation is not only a step to protect women, but also an act to safeguard human rights." ARADA Network's Mehwish Anam said,

"There should be collective and rigorous efforts by the governments, media, educators, religious leaders, families and women's rights activists to help create a society free of gender-based discrimination and violence."

The participants of the rally strongly condemned the inhuman and unethical treatment towards women in Pakistan on a daily basis, and urged the government to take steps for the protection of women's rights. They shouted slogans in support of women's rights and in opposition to gender based violence, intolerance and discrimination.

They were also holding placards and banners criticising various forms of physical, sexual, emotional and economic violence in the family, community, and violence perpetrated or condoned by the state, including laws and customary practices against women.

The rally was joined by over 300 people from different walks of life including students, lawyers, representatives of trade unions, political parties and civil society organizations.

Access to information basic right: Access to information is the basic right of every citizen. Legislation on two major issues including right to information and education was made under the 18th Amendment through Article 19(A) and 25(A) of the Constitution.

Speakers said this while addressing a seminar organised by Sudhaar here on Thursday. Title of the seminar was "Right to Information" (RTI) under its "Supporting Transparency, Accountability & Electoral Process (STAEP)" Programme.

A large number of people including police officials, journalists, doctors, lawyers, traders and representatives of the civil society organizations (CSOs) attended the session.

The speakers were of the view that right to information was the essence of democracy and good governance, besides, fostering transparency and laying foundation for accountability.

They also emphasised that every institution of the society must give information as it was related to the right to information.

"Without having accesses to information, citizens were less likely to express themselves, thus, the RTI served to be a fundamental protector of the basic human right, the right of expression", they added.

DSP Muhammad Waseem Akhtar, DO Education Miss Shamim Sethi, Bashir Ahmed Naz, Tanveer Ahmed Mughal, Prof Mrs. Mumtaz Chattha, Sahibabad Ghulam Mustafa Aasi, Naeem PML-N local leader Ahmed Butt, Advocate Zahid Sarfraz, Sudhaar District Coordinator Nabeel Arshad , Constituency Coordinator Farman Ali and Assistant Coordinator Sajjad Anwar also addressed the session.

On the occasion, the DSP announced the establishment of a free legal aid cell at the City Police Station for general public.