Why Women's Rights And Pakistani-Indian Peace Go Hand In Hand

From Rwanda to South Africa, examples abound of countries ending conflicts by boosting women's rights and creating spaces for them to assume more leadership roles.

Girls on a playground in Abbottabad, Pakistan
Quratulain Fatima and Elsa Marie


ISLAMABAD — Cricket legend Imran Khan's swearing-in as prime minister of Pakistan has opened the way for a positive shift in Indian-Pakistani relations. But such a shift will happen only if both sides think differently about the relationship and go beyond the tried and tested approaches of the past.

Looking beyond the obvious political differences that have kept the two sides apart, what both countries share is a common failure to involve women in the relationship-building process. The two countries also have an equally dismal record when it comes to gender justice. Given that peace and gender equality generally go hand-in-hand, promoting the role of women could be key to breaking the deadlock in South Asia.

Since the hostilities that accompanied the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, there have been occasional bursts of peace efforts and then long periods of tension and diplomatic standoffs, not to mention three wars and various skirmishes along the border and Line of Control. And through all of this, women have been affected the most.

Pakistani, Military, Gender

Pakistani military at Baine Baba Ziarat Photo: Wikimedia Commons Al Jazeera

There are horrific stories of men raping and abducting women during Partition, and now, 71 years on, India and Pakistan are considered among the most dangerous countries in the world for women. India and Pakistan also rank 131 and 147 respectively on the Gender Inequality Index because women lag behind in education, work and political participation. Patriarchal structures ensure that women who defy social norms are punished and sometimes lose their life, just like Qandeel Baloch in Pakistan and Jyoti Singh in India. Gender inequality has also resulted in a skewed sex ratio in India, where, due to femicide, there are 37 million more men than women.

For Pakistan and India, neglect of gender equality and the failure to ensure peace are connected. Peace is vital to promoting gender equality, while gender inequality can undermine peace and drive conflict and violence. No wonder then that the 10 countries that are at the bottom of the gender inequality index also experienced conflict in the past two decades.

But there is positive news too. A study of 40 peace processes in 35 countries over the past three decades has shown that when women's groups were able to effectively influence a peace process, an agreement was reached in all but one case.

One of the most positive examples is Rwanda, where, after the 1994 genocide, women took the lead in envisioning peace by putting aside their own suffering and experiences of violence to ensure their families were protected and safe. Now, with 64% women in office, the Rwandan parliament has the largest number of women in any government in the world and is a success story of keeping and sustaining peace.

In Liberia, Leymah Gbowee and others organized Christian and Muslim women, who collectively pressured the warring parties into the 2002 negotiations that ultimately ended years of horrific war. Women's significant participation in the transition in South Africa led to the enshrinement of gender equality in the country's new constitution.

With Imran Khan's win and his subsequent statement that both governments should meet for peace talks, we hope that gender equality will be part of those talks. To head in that direction, the following measures can be taken:

- Create spaces for dialogue between the two countries and across different sectors, such as women in business, women in politics, women in media, women in the development sector, etc. This will help women form coalitions but also serve to create support systems. Exchanging best practices and ideas can help strengthen efforts on both sides. But first, people should be allowed to visit each other and the stringent visa rules lifted.

- Invite representatives from these groups into the peace discussions. It is essential to bring them to the table so that a holistic perspective can be taken into consideration. Negotiators involved in peace processes in Northern Ireland, South Africa and Somalia report that even when female participants initially met with hostility from their male counterparts, they ultimately developed a reputation for building trust, engaging all sides and fostering dialogue in otherwise acrimonious settings.

- Train women to be on-ground implementers of peace, and address the trauma associated with hate and violence to start the healing process. In Burundi and Bosnia, women have been at the forefront of community-based conflict resolution and reconciliation projects. In Northern Ireland, women collaborated on cross-community programs relating to child care, health and micro-enterprise instrumental in fostering positive peace.

- Invest in women — and not just through financial allocation but also through other resources like education and the creation of an ecosystem that can raise the status of women to exercise their rights with freedom and safety through increased political and economic participation. Currently, the status of women is so de-valued that they are often seen as ‘property" and not human beings. This results in violence of unimaginable scale – gang rapes, honor killings, atrocious sex ratios, dowry deaths and femicide among others.

- Go beyond religion and work together as people. If designed well, the peace program will help heal the trauma of the divide between the two countries by involving leaders who will spread the message of peace.

With India's own national elections around the corner and escalating crimes against women, addressing peace needs to be an important part of the electoral process. If women are fully included, they will become stabilizers in the region.

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Thousands of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the U.S.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where the new U.S.-UK-Australia security pact is under fire, Italy becomes the first country to make COVID-19 "green pass" mandatory for all workers, and Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for 90 years. From Russia, we also look at the government censorship faced by brands that recently tried to promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness in their ads.

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]


• U.S. facing multiple waves of migrants, refugees: The temporary camp, located between Mexico's Ciudad Acuña and Del Rio in Texas, is housing some 10,000 people, largely from Haiti. With few resources, they are forced to wait in squalid conditions and scorching temperatures amidst a surge of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. Meanwhile, thousands of recently evacuated Afghan refugees wait in limbo at U.S. military bases, both domestic and abroad.

• COVID update: Italy is now the first European country to require vaccination for all public and private sector workers from Oct. 15. The Netherlands will also implement a "corona pass" in the following weeks for restaurants, bars and cultural spaces. When he gives an opening speech at the United Nations General Assembly next week, unvaccinated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will defy New York City authorities, who are requiring jabs for all leaders and diplomats.

• U.S. and UK face global backlash over Australian deal: The U.S. is attempting to diffuse the backlash over the new security pact signed with Australia and the UK, which excludes the European Union. The move has angered France, prompting diplomats to cancel a gala to celebrate ties between the country and the U.S.

• Russian elections: Half of the 450 seats in Duma are will be determined in today's parliamentary race. Despite persistent protests led by imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny, many international monitors and Western governments fear rigged voting will result in President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party maintaining its large majority.

• Somali president halts prime minister's authority: The decision by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed marks the latest escalation in tensions with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble concerning a murder investigation. The move comes as the Horn of Africa country has fallen into a political crisis driven by militant violence and clashes between clans.

• Astronauts return to Earth after China's longest space mission: Three astronauts spent 90 days at the Tianhe module and arrived safely in the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia. The Shenzhou-12 mission is the first of crewed missions China has planned for 2021-2022 as it completes its first permanent space station.

• Prince Philip's will to be kept secret for 90 years: A British court has ruled that the will of Prince Philip, the late husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth who passed away in April at 99 years old, will remain private for at least 90 years to preserve the monarch's "dignity and standing."


With a memorable front-page photo, Argentine daily La Voz reports on the open fight between the country's president Alberto Fernández and vice-president Cristina Kirchner which is paralyzing the government. Kirchner published a letter criticizing the president's administration after several ministers resigned and the government suffered a major defeat in last week's midterm primary election.



An Italian investigation uncovered a series of offers on encrypted "dark web" websites offering to sell fake EU COVID vaccine travel documents. Italy's financial police say its units have seized control of 10 channels on the messaging service Telegram linked to anonymous accounts that were offering the vaccine certificates for up to €150. "Through the internet and through these channels, you can sell things everywhere in the world," finance police officer Gianluca Berruti told Euronews.


In Russia, brands advertising diversity are under attack

Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

❌ "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi after publishing an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man. Shortly after, the company's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. Another recent case involved grocery store chain VkusVill, which released advertising material featuring a lesbian couple. The company soon began to receive threats and quickly apologized and removed the text and apologized.

🏳️🌈 For the real life family featured in the ad, they have taken refuge in Spain, after their emails and cell phone numbers were leaked. "We were happy to express ourselves as a family because LGBTQ people are often alone and abandoned by their families in Russia," Mila, one of the daughters in the ad, explained in a recent interview with El Pais.

🇷🇺 It is already common in Russia to talk about "spiritual bonds," a common designation for the spiritual foundations that unite modern Russian society, harkening back to the Old Empire as the last Orthodox frontier. The expression has been mocked as an internet meme and is widely used in public rhetoric. For opponents, this meme is a reason for irony and ridicule. Patriots take spiritual bonds very seriously: The government has decided to focus on strengthening these links and the mission has become more important than protecting basic human rights.Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

➡️


"Ask the rich countries: Where are Africa's vaccines?"

— During an online conference, Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, implored the international community to do more to inoculate people against COVID-19 in Africa and other developing regions. The World Health Organization estimates that only 3.6% of people living in Africa have been fully vaccinated. The continent is home to 17% of the world population, but only 2% of the nearly six billion shots administered so far have been given in Africa, according to the W.H.O.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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