Pakistani civil society activists march during a rally to mark International Women's Day in Islamabad on March 8, 2016. Women in conservative Pakistan have fought for their rights for decades, in a country where so-called honor killings and acid attacks remain commonplace. (Photo by Aamir Qureshi/AFP)
Pakistan's independent rights group has called upon the authorities to recognize the role of women human rights defenders and protect them from discrimination, harassment and attacks.
"Women rights defenders are subject to the same types of risks as any human rights defender, but as women they are more vulnerable to gender-specific violence and threats," the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in a statement on March 8, International Women's Day.
Pakistan has acted in a hostile way towards human rights defenders. In March 2016, Pakistan lobbied against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that sought greater protection for rights defenders working for economic, social and cultural change.
Before that, in December 2015, Pakistan was one of only 14 out of 193 states that voted against the U.N. General Assembly resolution on rights defenders.
"Numerous human rights defenders are killed, attacked or face other kinds of threats or harassment in Pakistan every year. It is perplexing that the government still argues that they are not a special group and do not warrant a special legal status. Even worse, senior representatives of the government repeatedly call human rights defenders 'foreign agents', 'proponents of western values' and 'anti-Islam,'" the statement said.
"The government must also ensure that women rights defenders in particular are provided a secure and equal environment in which they can carry out their work without fear," it added.
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