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The plight of refugee women.

The proclamation of 1975 as International Women's Year and the declaration of the United Nations Decade for Women from 1975-85, signified the importance of women's rule in various development programmes in society. The theme of the International Women's day this year, is "The Refugee Women".

Refugee women are faced with the worst type of situations in Pakistan. There are 3-2 million Afghan refugee women faced with the worst type of conditions. Refugees are generally victims of circumstances which they have no option to escape. They are forced to flee across borders. And to survive in an alien society keeping the family members intact, and fulfil their economic, social and cultural requirements, is a Himalayan task Be it in Ethiopia or in America women are striving hard to achieve the goal of equality. But in case of refugee women they have to re-double their efforts and capacities to cope with the circumstances. Women refugees have to fight on three fronts, with sex, society and alien state.

The lot of refugee women wander in Asia, Africa, and Europe. At home front they have to face certain circumstances which compelled them to flee their homelands. While the process of settling among the people of an alien society, is another difficult task. They learn to live in exile by the virtue of their in built properties, such as patience, tolerance, accommodative nature and flexibility. The conditions of female refugee is closely linked with the status of women in the host countries. Women, generally, continue to be discrinimated against, in spite of the growth in general awareness of women's rights.

A small majority of women has succeeded in liberating itself from the countries. Old bondage of superstition and male domination in Pakistan. Women are treated as second class citizens. They are now here close to males education, health standards of life, employment and social status. The literacy rate of women is only 16 per cent. Women in Pakistan, in unity along with the women of world, celebrate every year. "The International Women's Days". A day marked by the United Nations for the rights of women in the world.

The day Pakistan, although serve not more than a window-dressing, but somehow provides an opportunity for a verbal expression of dissatisfaction with the state of Pakistani women. Pakistan had gone from the distinction of having the first Muslim woman Prime Minister in the world, to being a country where not a single vital political post in the Federal and Provincial governments, was occupied by a woman.

Amnesty international in a specific statement for International Women's Day, noted, that girls/women are deprived and disadvantaged in every sphere of life and "under the guise of religious sanctions". Crimes against women had actually increased. Such a practice, violated the spirit of the Pakistan Constitution ARticle: 25(2) "There shall be no discrimination of the basis of sex alone".

United Nations convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women formulate policies and develop programmes to improve the status of women and the equality of their lives do away with the Zina Ordinance. (Enforcement of Hudood) in its present form, promote legal literacy among women, make primary education free and compulsory, promote family planning, encourage self-employment and mandate the presence of female officers, and attendants in Police stations where women are detained.

Contrary to the progressive trends being accepted throughout the world, in the sphere of legislation, Pakistan is deteriorating. There are certain laws adopted by the Government, which blatantly discriminate against women. Their reserve seats in the Assemblies have been allowed to lapse and there are no signs or symbols which could indicate constitutional reforms in near future or any hope for an amendment to review these seats. There are only two women in the 207 seat National Assembly.

One can easily deduce the depth of the concern of government for women's welfare and betterment. Their life expectancy is lower than men. A high birth rate sucks their energies and thus eventually leads them towards death before time. Only 7 per cent of women are said to be in the organised labour force, while their contribution to agriculture and the informal sector is never recognised.

The Constitution of Pakistan seeks to guarantee equality of the sexes in article 34: "Steps shall be taken to ensure full participation of women in all spheres of life." In view of the prevailing situation, it is believed that, women will have to go a long way to enter the main stream of their national life. Progress of few women cannot be regarded as the progress of all women. There is no presence of the better half in the decision making process at various levels. A vast majority of women suffer from illiteracy, mal-nutrition, poor health, inadequate housing, unemployment, insecurity and unawareness of their legal rights.

A1 Report

Amnesty International has called for an end to the "barbaric" abuse of women by state security forces in every region of the world. In its first major report on women victims of human rights violations, Amnesty International details abuses inflicted on women in over 40 countries and says the victims have included babies, teenagers, pregnant mothers and women in their sixties.

The report - released on International Women's Day and submitted to the United Commission on the Status of Women now meeting in Vienna - describes a wide range of abuses inflicted on women simply because of their sex or their role in their family or society.

Female political activists in China and Myammar (Burma) have been unjustly jailed, black Mauritian women have been gunned down by soldiers and female students in Turkey have been tortured. Young and old women are raped by prison guards, pregnant women are beaten, and others are used to get their husbands or brothers", Amnestly International says.

Rape, for example, is one of the most common methods soldiers and prison guards use to torture women. In some countries it is commonly used to force confessions, in others it is used as punishment. In India, reports or rape by Police are so common that a newspaper has aid "cop molests woman" is an almost daily story. In Peru, Amnesty International has documented a pattern of rape throughout the emergency zones where soldiers have sweeping powers. Rape is sometimes the torture method of choice Amnesty International says, Simply because the social stigma is many cultures virtually guarantees that women won't talk about it afterwards".

Women refugees often have to deal with rape and sexual harassment both in their country and after fleeing. According to the United Nations, rape is often the persecution that drives them away from home and sexual favours are frequently the price for relief goods or documentations. For some women who were pregnant during their detention, such torture and ill-treatment or a lack of medical care has even led to miscarriages.

Governments will often exploit it a woman's family connections to break her or her relatives. More Syrian women have been detained since 1987 because of the political activities of their husbands and sons. A gun was held to the hand of a two year old child in Guatemala to force the mother to deliver a warning to her activist brother.

Some of the most disturbing abuses, however, have no gender label. Amnesty International says Along with men, women are jailed after unfair trials, "disappear" in military custody, and are shot dead by "deaths squads" or soldiers. The women who have "disappeared" - some after eyewitnesses saw soldiers take them away - have included suspected members of armed opposition groups in Sri Lanka, civilians in Peru's emergency zones and community activists in the Philippines.
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Author:Jabbar, Bushra
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Apr 1, 1991
Words:1272
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