For Immediate Release, September 18, 2003
Contact: Barbara Becker, EqualShot, 212-375-0661
Protector of Women's Rights in Pakistan to Receive Major Award
New York, NY - Shahnaz Bukhari, founder and head of the Progressive Women's Association (PWA), a grassroots organization in Pakistan that protects abused women, will receive this year's Civil Courage Prize at an award ceremony on October 15, 2003. Mrs. Bukhari, a clinical psychologist, will be recognized for her efforts in spite of persecution she has suffered while battling against the burning of women in Pakistan, and pushing for legal and societal reform in her country.
The Civil Courage Prize honors "civil courage" — steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk. The acts recognized by the Prize have taken place deliberately, over time. It is awarded annually by the Trustees of the Northcote Parkinson Fund. Honorees receive $50,000.
"People who demonstrate civil courage are heroes of conscience, if you will," says John Train, founder of the Civil Courage Prize and chairman of the Northcote Parkinson Fund. "Civil courage honorees may be pariahs in their homelands, but they will do whatever it takes — no matter how severe the consequences — to fight what they believe to be true injustice."
In 1994, galvanized by a hospital visit to a woman tortured by her husband, Mrs. Bukhari began to focus 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 home — for female victims of violence and their children. 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 of Pakistan (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 has been 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.
The 2003 Prize will be presented on October 15 at an Award Ceremony in New York City, 6:30-8pm Harold Pratt House 58 E 68th St. To attend the event as a member of the media, please contact Barbara Becker at 212-375-0661 or Barbara@equalshot.com
For further information about the Progressive Women's Association, please visit: www.pwai.org.
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