Webpage Editor: Ingrid H. Shafer, Ph.D.
e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted 10 April 1999
Last revised 29 May 2000
Web-edition copyright © 1999-2000 Ingrid H. Shafer
FOR THE RIGHTS OF FEMALE VICTIMS
OF VIOLENCE IN PAKISTAN
I. BACKGROUND OF THE NETWORK
In January 1999, the B.B.C. aired, in England, a documentary entitled "A Matter of Honour" about so-called "honour-killings" of girls and women in Pakistan by their close male relatives. On February 15 and 16, 1999, ABC Nightline presented the same documentary adding two commentators who answered questions asked by Forrest Sawyer, the presenter of the program.
The two commentators were Asma Jahangir and Dr.Riffat Hassan. Asma Jahangir, currently the President of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission is a lawyer who has represented a number of women in well-known legal cases in Pakistan. Dr. Riffat Hassan, Professor of Religious Studies and Humanities at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.A., has been engaged for twenty-five years in research on the position and rights of women according to normative Islam. Since 1990 she has been involved in translating the findings of her pioneer research into concrete projects on Muslim women's empowerment and has been a major spokesperson in this area at the United Nations Conference on Population and Development at Cairo (1994) and the 4th World Conference on Women at Beijing (1995).
Both commentators pointed out in the Nightline program that the so-called "honour-killings" of girls and women in Pakistan had nothing to do with the teachings of Islam. Dr. Hassan further clarified that such crimes were related to a male-centred, male-dominated or patriarchal mindset which was being challenged by many women's groups and young Muslims in Muslim societies. In her judgment a paradigm shift was taking place particularly at the grassroots level and amongst Muslim women and youth toward a human-rights-and-women's-rights-centred understanding of Islam. It was this shift - to which very little attention was paid by Western media - which made Dr.Hassan optimistic about the possibility of change in the future despite the grimness of the current situation of many female victims of violence in Pakistan.
Following the showing of the Nightline program, Dr. Riffat Hassan received a large number of messages by E-mail, telephone, fax and letters from a variety of women and men in the United States. Two important sentiments that were common to these messages were a strong sense of outrage that vulnerable girls and women were being subjected to so much brutality and violence in Pakistan, and a keen desire to do something about this state of affairs. The idea of having a network of concerned persons working together for the rights of female victims of violence in Pakistan, and to eliminate the roots of such violence, developed spontaneously or "naturally" out of the interchange between Dr.Hassan and those who communicated with her in the context of the Nightline program.
On February 26, ten days after the program was broadcast in the United States, Dr. Hassan took the initiative of setting up a network to be called THE INTERNATIONAL NETWORK FOR THE RIGHTS OF FEMALE VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE IN PAKISTAN (henceforth to be referred to as INRFVVP). The strength of the emotional and moral impulse generated by the Nightline program can be estimated by the fact that in less than four weeks since the announcement of the creation of the INRFVVP, more than three hundred people had either joined the network as members or expressed sympathy and support for its aims and objectives. Daily, this number has grown as more and more people have seen the documentary "A Matter of Honour" in countries as distant as India and Australia, and as word about the existence of INRFVVP has spread. In order to become an effective body able to mobilise and channelise resources to help girls and women who have become victims of violence or are vulnerable to it, the INRFVVP has become a registered non-profit, non-governmental organization.
She deserves a chance!
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