By KATHY GANNON Associated Press
Photo: Pakistani villager Hameeda Begum harvests crop with her son due to unavailability of daily wage laborers, during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, in suburbs of Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, April 30, 2020. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)
ISLAMABAD (AP) — An annual human rights report released this week gives Pakistan a failing grade, charging that too little is being done to protect the country’s most vulnerable, including women and children.
The 264-page report by the Independent Pakistan Human Rights Commission laid out a litany of human rights failings. They include unabated honor killings, forced conversions of minority Hindu under-age girls and continued use of a blasphemy law that carries the death penalty to intimidate and settle scores.
In December, Pakistan was ranked 151st out of 153 by the World Economic Forum on the Global Gender Gap Index.
“Despite the legislation enacted to protect and promote women’s rights in recent years, violence against women has escalated,” the report released Thursday said.
It also criticizes increased restrictions on media freedom and criticism of state institutions and a growing number of cases of sexual and physical abuse of children.
There was no immediate comment from the government.
Pakistan has been slow to enact laws to protect the country’s most vulnerable and even where laws are in place they are often not enforced by police. Law enforcement agencies in Pakistan are often corrupt or refuse to take the word of a woman over a man in Pakistan’s deeply male-dominated society. In March, a powerful cleric who has the ear of the prime minister blamed the global coronavirus pandemic on women who dress immodestly.
Social media outrage greeted cleric Tariq Jameel after he blamed women, particularly young women who “choose the path of indecency and … vulgarity,” for the coronavirus pandemic. His charges were made during a live TV fundraising drive to feed Pakistan’s poorest hurt by a weeks-long lock-down to stem the virus’s spread. Jameel also shamed girls for dancing and wearing “skimpy clothing.”
Jameel, who did not rescind his remarks, later said he was addressing the failings of the “collective” society.
Pakistan on Friday recorded 16,817 positive cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, with 385 deaths. Pakistan also recorded its largest single day hike in positive cases with 990 new infections. However, Pakistan has also increased its testing to around 8,000 per day, considerably less than the 20,000 daily target the government has promised.
“The weakest segments of society remained invisible, unheard, neglected, and undermined when it came to the real priorities of the state — be it children who were malnourished, subjected to hazardous labor, sexually abused, physically tortured and murdered; or women who continued to face violence and discrimination at home, at the workplace and in public spaces,” the report said.
“Pakistan continued to bear a dismal human rights record in terms of complying with the constitutional guarantees to its own citizens and the international obligations to which it is a state party,” it said.
The government’s own National Commission on Human Rights has been without a chairperson and six of its seven members for nearly a year.
Requests for country visits by U.N. special investigators on a number of issues are still pending. Those include extrajudicial killings and freedom of religion and the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.
Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.