Battler against the burning and other abuse of Pakistani women
In 2004, Shahnaz Bukhari was selected as one of the 21 leaders of the 21st Century by Women's E-News.
Shahnaz Bukhari is the founder and head of the Progressive Women's Association (PWA), a grassroots organization in Pakistan which protects abused women, raises awareness of their plight, and pushes for legal and societal reform.
Mrs. Bukhari, a clinical psychologist, founded the PWA with a few friends in 1986. In 1994, galvanized by a hospital visit to a wife tortured by her husband, Mrs. Bukhari focused her work specifically on violence against women, and the need for proper legislation to deter it. Mrs. Bukhari first used her own home as a safe house, then set up a shelter - again in her own ancestral home for female victims of violence and their children, the only one in the Islamabad-Rawalpindi area. In 2001, she launched a campaign to open a larger center for women in Islamabad to provide medical, psychological and legal support to abused women.
Mrs. Bukhari campaigns against the systematic oppression of women, and particularly against so-called "honor killings," especially "chula deaths" ("accidental" stove deaths). An Amnesty International report of 17 April 2002 describes 160 women burned to death and 540 suicides in Karachi alone in 2000.
PWA has collected data showing that, from March 1994 to March 2003, more than 5,000 women in the Islamabad-Rawalpindi area (an area covering a 200 mile radius) have been doused in kerosene and set alight by family members. Less than 1% survived. These "stove deaths" are essentially never successfully prosecuted; the conviction rate is barely 4%. Since 1987, the PWA has dealt with more than 15,000 cases, involving wife beating, child abduction, honor killings, incest, the trafficking of women and children, and rape.
Mrs. Bukhari has suffered death threats, warnings, and abuse in the course of her work. In the spring of 2002, the PWA shelter was raided and shut down, while Mrs. Bukhari was accused of "abetting an attempt to commit adultery" and was tried under traditional Federal Sharia (Islamic) law. In January of 2003, Mrs. Bukhari was exonerated in that case. While the government is committed to addressing the plight of women, the pace of change is very slow.
Mrs. Bukhari has held positions within the Pakistani government, including membership in the Senate and the Senate's standing committee on women's development. She was also nominated by her country as a special "rapporteur" for the Violence against Women Committee of the United Nations, Geneva.
Progressive Women's Association: www.pwaisbd.org
Shahnaz Bukhari, 2003 Honoree, battles against the burning and other abuse of Pakistani Women.
2003 Honoree Shahnaz Bukhari with 2000 Honoree Natasa Kandic (seated). With them are Mrs. Bukhari's children (far left and right), Chairman John Train, CCP Adviser Richard Gilder and Mariana Katzarovna of Amnesty International (center).
Keynote speaker Jeane Kirkpatrick and guest Herbert Okun enjoy the reception.
Playwright and activist Eve Ensler, Shahnaz Bukhari, 2003 Honoree, Arlene Lederman, Mariana Katsarova (NPF Gilder Initiative), Tania Pouschine (Equality Now) celebrate Mrs. Bukhari's achievements.
Chairman John Train and 2003 Honoree Shahnaz Bukhari with her commemorative medal.