This report is intended to provide insight into the use of ICT tools as a means of women empowerment, aiming to dissect their use in facilitating women in realising leadership roles in society. The report is meant primarily to tackle the issues of ‘Violence against women’ (VAW) and ‘Gender based cyber harassment’ in Pakistan, and to address these issues by holding a discourse on the use of ICTs as tools for the betterment of this condition – by enabling and positioning women in roles where they can proactively work towards such a goal themselves.
To this effect, it is necessary that the penetration of popular ICT tools like cellular telephony and internet, with its complement of services, within the Pakistani society be studied. Before such an excursion, however, it is important that the limitations and issues, in both such an undertaking and in understanding and analysing the present situation, be identified, so that observations can be made accordingly keeping these in view. A study of such limitations reveals pitfalls in the current legal and social infrastructure, which not only hinder in the way of legally and socially addressing such issues but also encourage incidences of VAW and gender based cyber harassment by virtue of not maintaining checks and balances. It also further reveals that no mechanisms exist in the public and private spheres to duly highlight or report such issues.
These limitations notwithstanding, Pakistan is still positioned ideally to introduce ICT tools as a means of empowering women and consequently addressing VAW and gender based cyber harassment. This is so due to the high cellular telephony penetration, and a fast growing internet adoption rate, in the country. Pakistan also has a healthy presence on the various social media platforms in the country.
Despite this, unfortunately, no specific legislation and legal framework is in place in the country to address these issues, and the public sector as well as the private sector is ill equipped to catalyse change in society – no holistic reporting, support, or education programs exist. The programs that do exist are too small in scale to effect practical, large scale, societal change. Efforts, however, are underway by both the public and private sectors – welcome steps – to address these issues. These efforts too have been discussed.
Furthermore, a comparison has also been made between Pakistan’s existing social and legal framework, and its reported incident rates of VAW and gender based social harassment, with that of several developing and developed countries. This is done as a comparative study between Pakistan and various other countries to ascertain Pakistan’s condition with respect to those of other countries. This is also allows for a pattern to be drawn and an expected trajectory to be extrapolated identifying the results that efforts towards limiting these issues will yield. Importantly, this also serves as a means to temper expectations from such an ambitious undertaking.
Finally, the report makes recommendations highlight the need for proper legislature, awareness, education and outreach programmes, media and public visibility, an effective reporting and record keeping mechanism, and capacity building – both institutional and social. These recommendations are intended to facilitate the goal of empowering women with leadership roles, as well tackling the issues of VAW and gender based cyber harassment. The report, in its concluding remarks, emphasises the significance of such measures in the face of prevailing circumstances and stresses the need for projecting expectations with due consideration for ground realities.

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