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A Girl in the River: the Price of Forgiveness” screened at Canadian HC

ISLAMABAD, MAR 11 (DNA) -The Oscar winning documentary, ‘A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness,’ directed by Pakistani Filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, was screened on Friday for the second time in Pakistan by the High Commission of Canada, the British High Commission and UN Women.

Heartfelt congratulations to Ms. Obaid-Chinoy were offered by the three hosts i.e. High Commissioner of Canada Heather Cruden, British High Commissioner-Designate Thomas Drew and UN Women Country Representative Jamshed Kazi.

This event brought together a large number of women’s rights activists, government officials, diplomats and media, who called forstrengthening of existing laws and helping to change the national climate with regard to widespread honour killings in Pakistan The event paid tribute to the Oscar-winning short documentary and its director, winner of Pakistan’s two Academy Awards.

The film has galvanized support to change the laws to better protect women. As Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said, “there is no honour in honour killing.”

Speaking at the occasion, the British High Commissioner-designate to Pakistan, Thomas Drew CMG said: “Congratulations to Sharmeen for winning the Oscars for this incredible movie, and most of all bringing to light a topic many women in Pakistan find hard to talk about.

There are many Pakistani women working for change throughout the country whose voices do not get heard.
“About one thousand Pakistani women are killed every year for ‘bringing shame’ on their families, but more than seventy percent of the perpetrators in these cases walk free because of a ‘forgiveness’ loophole in the laws relating to honour killing.
“A bill was earlier tabled to eliminate the ‘forgiveness’ clause in honour killing cases but it died without a powerful member of the ruling party to champion it. I commend the pledge by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last month to stop these crimes. There is no honour in honour killings.

“The UK is closely working with the federal and provincial government of Pakistan to tackle violence against women, including domestic violence and honour killings.

The National Assembly of Pakistan recently had passed many important bills for gender equality and curb violence against women such as: Acid Crime and Control Act 2011; Prevention of Anti Women Practices Act, 2011; National Commission on the Status of Women Act 2012 and Pakistan’s Domestic Violence (prevention and protection) Act, 2012). Much work though remains to be done.

“Change ultimately does not come from governments but from people themselves. No change gets given to you; no rights get given to you. You first have to know you want those rights, then you have to struggle for them, and then things happen.

It’s the only way change happens. Today is an excellent opportunity for us all to stand with the brave women of Pakistan for a change – to help them create laws that protect them, cultures that defend their dignity and communities that support their right to choose their destinies.”

The High Commissioner of Canada in Pakistan, Heather Cruden, said: “I am proud to say that for the past 25 years, Canada has remained committed to gender equality and women’s rights efforts in Pakistan. We see this work not only as a human rights issue, but also as a crucial element of sustainable economic development.

“Canada has faced its own challenges in building a better country for women. 100 years ago today, I would not have been included in the legal definition of a person – women were not acknowledged as “persons” under Canadian law until 1929. We have come a long way, and I look forward to continuing to work with the women and men of Pakistan as we strive to make the world a more equal place for every human being.”

In his congratulatory speech, UN Women’s Country Representative in Pakistan, Jamshed M. Kazi said: “World leaders who met in New York last year to endorse the Sustainable Development Goals have set an expiry date for gender inequality – September 2030. For this goal to be achieved, Pakistan, like many other countries will need to step up the pace of change, which we are just beginning to witness.

“A girl born in Pakistan today will be an 81 year old grandmother before she has the same chance as a boy to become a CEO of a company. Similarly, at current rates of progress it will take 118 years to close the gender pay gap for equal work. This has to be a sprint, not a marathon.

“Sharmeen, through the international limelight and advocacy of her Oscar winning film “A Girl in the River” has demonstrated that changes in the law and practice of honor killing in Pakistan can be lifted from dormancy and accelerated on a fast-track. Just like novel technologies have enabled countries to leapfrog on economic development, we should be leveraging the full power of film and media to generate faster transformational change for gender equality and women’s empowerment in Pakistan.

“UN Women’s vision of a Planet 50:50 is not just another planet in a galaxy far, far away, but right here in Pakistan within half a generation, if not sooner.”=DNA

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