A study report published by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) highlights that domestic violence is becoming a silent pandemic in Pakistan, presenting a significant challenge to both society and the state.
The report, titled “Gendered Impacts of the Covid-19 Pandemic in Central and West Asia”, references a recent survey conducted in Punjab and Sindh, revealing an increase in threats of physical violence (40%) and physical assault from spouses (46%).
The study aims to illuminate the pandemic’s impact, focusing on initiatives and results from policy and public investments, particularly ADB projects in nine countries in Central and West Asia.
The report notes that gendered data on COVID-19 cases and deaths are not consistently available or updated across the region.
The report attributes the rise in violence against women and girls (VAWG) in Pakistan to factors such as economic hardships and restrictions, leading to a loss of livelihoods.
Development partners in the country stress the urgency of changing the narrative to address this concerning trend.
Countries where agriculture is a primary sector of employment for women, including Pakistan, Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan, are encouraged to pay more attention to women’s inclusion in agriculture.
Policies related to land, agriculture extension services, and technology should be designed with a gender-responsive approach.
Stakeholders across sectors emphasize the need to prioritize the development and strengthening of women’s entrepreneurship. The role of the private sector in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment is also highlighted.
In terms of recommendations, the report suggests designing and strengthening programs to enhance women’s capacity for business growth through integrated loan and training initiatives.
Social protection programs supporting unpaid caregivers should be developed to avoid penalizing women in this role.
The study underscores the importance of gender strategies and equality laws, citing the lack of these in some countries, including Pakistan.
In countries with existing frameworks for gender equality, improved implementation and intra-governmental coordination are advocated.
Despite these challenges, the report notes that the response of governments to gender-related issues has not been encouraging.