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Perspective from Pakistan

On 7th March, 2011 the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) held a seminar on the occasion of the
2011 International Women's Day. This is an extract from the Report from that event.

Perspectives from Pakistan
Sameena Nazir, director of the Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy (PODA), gave a speech on the links between militarisation and women in the current situation in Pakistan. In the past 20 years, Pakistan has been the battlefield for both national and international ideological, economic, and strategic interests. Due to the conflicts the region, Pakistan and Afghanistan in particular have become heavily militarised. The issue of women's rights is particularly alarming as women bear the greatest risk and impacts of militarism. The increase of domestic violence is directly linked to insecurity and the accessibility of small arms and light weapons. Ms. Nazir emphasised: “There were more women killed in Pakistan by domestic violence than in accidents or floods”. At the same time, women are systematically excluded from all forms of decision making, particularly in disarmament and small arms proliferation agendas.

The intensification of war in the region and the militarisation of Pakistani society have resulted in 60 percent of the Pakistani population being under 25 years of age; the majority of suicide bombers are less than 16 years of age. Media plays an important role in the creation of a militarised culture, as does the glorification of suicide bombers and politicians stating that “either you are with us or against us”. What we see in Pakistan today is a highly patriarchal, masculine, and nationalistic society.

In 1998, Pakistan demonstrated its nuclear weapon capability in response to India's nuclear weapon tests. Women's rights groups have pointed to the increased “defence” budget in Pakistan as a factor of instability when advocating for focus on a peaceful discourse. A lot of resources currently going to the arms trade and the maintenance of nuclear weapons could be diverted to economic and social development. Decreased investment in public services exposes the most vulnerable populations to even greater risk. As such, these populations, including women, are affected disproportionately by the consequences of instability and insecurity.