In September, several media outlets reported on a rape case that happened in Lahore, Pakistan. The ‘motorway case’ involved a woman who was sexually assaulted in front of her children after waiting for assistance in her car on the highway in Lahore. The Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umar Sheikhs responded by victim-blaming the woman. This has provoked an international public outcry and rage, and led to calls for action to address sexual violence in the country. This horrendous case happened not long after a five-year-old girl in Karachi was raped and then set on fire.
On 28 September 2020, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) Samira Rafaela, Karen Melchior, Abir Al-Sahlani, Radka Maxova, Sylvie Brunet, Irene Tolleret, Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, Hilde Vautmans, and Susana Solís Perez, all of the Renew Political Group, sent a parliamentary question to the Vice-President of the Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR), Josep Borrell. The Parliamentarians asked the VP/HR does he “condemn the cases of sexual violence that happened in September 2020 in Pakistan” and what concrete actions is he “planning to take to ensure that any current and future plans to engage with Pakistan are based on the promotion of women’s rights, and the elimination of all forms of violence against women?”
Lastly, the Renew representatives enquired about the steps the Commission and the VP/HR “will take to make all funding programmes for Pakistan conditional on progress in women’s rights by making gender mainstreaming one of its funding objectives?”
On 16 November, the Vice-President of the Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell officially responded on behalf of the European Commission. In his answer he stated that “human rights, including women’s rights, are raised regularly in the EU’s bilateral dialogue with Pakistan” and he also reported that “the most recent exchange took place at the 6th EU-Pakistan Political Dialogue on 6 October 2020”.
The VP/HR Borrell further explained that “violence against women, including rape, was raised by the EU in the Sub Group on Democracy, Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights to the 10th EU-Pakistan Joint Commission on 13-14 November 2019” and that “measures taken to prevent violence against women will be followed up in the 11th EU-Pakistan Joint Commission”.
The VP/HR Borrell also highlighted that “the EU Head of Delegation to Pakistan condemned the specific case raised by the Honourable Members publicaly on 13 September 2020”.
He further reported that the 2018-2019 Report on the Generalised Scheme of Preferences was submitted to the European Parliament and Council on 10 February 2020 that was accompanied by a Staff Working Document on Pakistan’s implementation of the 27 international conventions under the special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance (GSP+) and that the report “states that Pakistan is making some progress on the protection of women’s and children’s rights, but violence against women and gender discrimination remain salient problems”.
The VP/HR Borrell underlined that “in June 2020, the Commission sent the government a list of the most salient issues in effectively implementing the 27 international conventions” and that also “includes action to tackle the impunity for the perpetrators of crimes, and the implementation of gender equality policies”.
In closing, the VP/HR Borrell stated that “gender mainstreaming is integrated in the EU’s projects within Pakistan, including all rural development, education and governance projects” and that “the EU is also actively supporting Pakistan through women’s empowerment programmes and promotion of girls’ education”. He concluded with “ending violence against women and girls will remain high on the agenda in the next EU Gender Action Plan”.
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