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In January 1999, the BBC aired, in England, a documentary entitled "A Matter of Honour" about so-called "honour-killings" of girls and women in Pakistan by their close male relatives. On February 15 and 16, 1999, ABC Nightline presented the same documentary adding two commentators who answered questions asked by Forrest Sawyer, the presenter of the program.

The two commentators were Asma Jahangir and Dr.Riffat Hassan. Asma Jahangir, currently the President of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission is a lawyer who has represented a number of women in well-known legal cases in Pakistan. Dr. Riffat Hassan, Professor of Religious Studies and Humanities at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.A., has been engaged for twenty-five years in research on the position and rights of women according to normative Islam. Since 1990 she has been involved in translating the findings of her pioneer research into concrete projects on Muslim women's empowerment and has been a major spokesperson in this area at the United Nations Conference on Population and Development at Cairo (1994) and the 4th World Conference on Women at Beijing (1995).

Both commentators pointed out in the Nightline program that the so-called "honour-killings" of girls and women in Pakistan had nothing to do with the teachings of Islam. Dr. Hassan further clarified that such crimes were related to a male-centered, male-dominated or patriarchal mindset which was being challenged by many women's groups and young Muslims in Muslim societies. In her judgment a paradigm shift was taking place particularly at the grassroots level and amongst Muslim women and youth toward a human-rights-and-women's-rights-centered understanding of Islam. It was this shift - to which very little attention was paid by Western media - which made Dr.Hassan optimistic about the possibility of change in the future despite the grimness of the current situation of many female victims of violence in Pakistan.

Following the showing of the Nightline program, Dr. Riffat Hassan received a large number of messages by E-mail, telephone, fax and letters from a variety of women and men in the United States. Two important sentiments that were common to these messages were a strong sense of outrage that vulnerable girls and women were being subjected to so much brutality and violence in Pakistan, and a keen desire to do something about this state of affairs. The idea of having a network of concerned persons working together for the rights of female victims of violence in Pakistan, and to eliminate the roots of such violence, developed spontaneously or "naturally" out of the interchange between Dr.Hassan and those who communicated with her in the context of the Nightline program.

On February 26, ten days after the program was broadcast in the United States, Dr. Hassan took the initiative of setting up a network to be called THE INTERNATIONAL NETWORK FOR THE RIGHTS OF FEMALE VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE IN PAKISTAN (henceforth to be referred to as INRFVVP). The strength of the emotional and moral impulse generated by the Nightline program can be estimated by the fact that in less than four weeks since the announcement of the creation of the INRFVVP, more than three hundred people have either joined the network as members or have expressed sympathy and support for its aims and objectives. Daily, this number is growing as more and more people see the documentary "A Matter of Honour" in countries as distant as India and Australia, and as word about the existence of INRFVVP gets around. In order to become an effective body able to mobilize and channelise resources to help girls and women who have become victims of violence or are vulnerable to it, the INRFVVP has undertaken to be registered as a non-profit, non-governmental organization. This registration entails the outlining of a vision/mission statement as well as the setting up of an administrative structure.

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The veil of secrecy and shame which has been draped over the issue of domestic violence for centuries is gradually being lifted. Ever-increasing amounts of statistical data pertaining to domestic violence - the major targets of which are women and children - makes it indisputable that such violence is a global phenomenon of large proportions which is not confined to any one region, country, community or culture in the world.

In the West where Islam and Muslims are often stereotyped in negative terms and associated with violence, one of the commonest ways of "Islam-and-Muslim-bashing" is to point to ways in which girls and women are discriminated against in Muslim societies and cultures. It is understandable that Muslims, especially those living in the West, feeling that they are continually under assault, react defensively to anything which appears to reinforce the negative stereotype or the association of Islam and Muslims with violence.

Certainly there is nothing at all in normative Islam embodied in the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet of Islam - the two highest sources of the Islamic tradition - which authorizes or legitimizes the use of violence particularly toward disadvantaged human beings. On the contrary, the Quran and the Prophet of Islam were extremely mindful of the fact that at the time of the advent of Islam in a society in which female infanticide was practiced, girls and women were victims of serious discrimination and degradation. So central was gender-equality and gender-justice to the worldview of normative Islam that it gave girls and women not only the right to live and other fundamental rights given to all human beings, but also many special rights which - taking account of their weakness and vulnerability in pre-Islamic Arabian society - were intended to safeguard them from any kind of abuse, oppression or injustice.

Unfortunately, due to a number of reasons especially the fact that the major religious traditions of the world developed in male-centered and male-controlled or patriarchal cultures, in Muslim countries and communities - as in other religious and non-religious countries and communities - there is a big gap between professed ideals and actual practices when it comes to the rights of girls and women. This is why in recent times, through world conferences on human rights and women's rights, and numerous documents of the United Nations and other world organizations, so much emphasis has been placed on identifying and eliminating various forms of discrimination against girls and women. There can be no doubt that acts of violence such as are represented by so-called "honour killings" constitute a very serious form of discrimination toward girls and women and that such acts which violate the sanctity of human life - the most fundamental of all human rights - cannot be condoned in the name of any culture or religion.

The so-called "honour-killings" of girls and women by their male relatives constitute a crime which - by no means - is confined to Pakistan or even to Muslim countries and communities. It has its roots in ancient tribal customs which became incorporated in many cultures. Nevertheless, it is profoundly regrettable that such a crime should be so widely prevalent in Pakistan, a country whose very name - "Land of the Pure" - denotes the idealism of the Muslims of India who engaged in a long and arduous struggle to establish a "homeland" in which the lofty principles of Islam could become actualized and institutionalized.

Many Pakistanis have reacted negatively to the documentary "A Matter of Honour" and called it "biased," "anti-Pakistan" and "anti-Islam". What is important to remember in this context is that regardless of the intentions of those who made or broadcast this film, the fact remains that the female victims of violence shown in this film are real human beings who are speaking in their own voices and whose intense pain and agony we see with our own eyes. By denying, ignoring or obscuring the occurrence of horrible crimes ranging from having acid thrown on one's face to being set on fire to being physically mutilated to being murdered - which are documented not only in "A Matter of Honour" but in the findings of many highly-credentialed researchers - one is neither taking the high moral ground nor advancing the best interests of Pakistan.

A number of people who have come forward to create the INRFFVP are of Pakistani origin or friends of Pakistan who love Pakistan and would never engage in "Pakistan-bashing" to please an anti-Pakistan or anti-Muslim faction or agency. The sentiments of the young Pakistanis who have volunteered to be a part of the INRFVVP are well-expressed by the young woman who said, " I have joined this network because I want Pakistan to be what it was meant to be. Iqbal, the great poet who is considered to be the spiritual founder of Pakistan had dreamt of a land where people could actually exercise the rights given to them by God. Pakistan was created in the name of Islam and to me the essence of Islam is compassion, justice and peace. Even though I live in the West, Pakistan is part of my heritage and I want to reclaim it. The only way I can reclaim it is by joining other like-minded persons who want to work towards eliminating the wrongs and violence being done to women and girl-children in Pakistan"

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The INRFVVP will work to create an heightened worldwide awareness of the degree and nature of the violence being done to girls and women in Pakistan. Recognizing the fact that female victims of violence, most of whom are poor and illiterate, are not able to change their situation without the assistance of the international community, the INRFVVP will seek the help of agencies and persons engaged in collaborative efforts to secure the rights of people who are seriously disadvantaged in the societies in which they live (as was the case with victims of apartheid in South Africa or female genital mutilation in some countries and communities).

The larger long-term goal of the INRFVVP is to examine the root-causes of violence toward girls and women by a systematic and scientific analysis of both theoretical and empirical data and to identify factors which make such violence so widely prevalent. Once the underlying factors have been discerned and understood, the INRFVVP will strive to create an environment from which the root-causes of violence toward girls and women have been eliminated. The INRFFVP believes that such an environment would be enabling and empowering not only for girls and women but also for men and families and will lead to the social and moral upliftment and advancement of the community or society at large.

The INRFFVP also believes that the findings of the research done in the context of Pakistan will be of benefit to girls and women in other countries especially those who, like the female war victims in Afghanistan or Bosnia, are faced with exceptionally difficult circumstances. It is particularly hoped that the initiative taken by the INRFVVP will inspire and encourage Pakistani society and communities, as well as other Muslim societies and communities, to root out evil practices such as "honour-killings". These and other acts of violence toward girls and women not only bring a bad name to themselves and to their religion, but are also in stark opposition to the central teachings of Islam as well as universally accepted conventions on fundamental human rights.

An immediate objective of the INRFVVP is to provide direct help - including humanitarian, medical, legal and educational assistance - to female victims of violence in Pakistan, through fund-raising by members, as well as through collaboration and networking with supportive and philanthropic agencies and persons.

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Professor Dr. Riffat Hassan (Founder / President)
Professor Dr. Lilialyce Akers
Professor Dr. Salim Akhtar
Dr. Mary Arnett
Professor Dr. Ibrahim Imam
Professor Dr. Fariyal Ross-Sheriff
Professor Robert Stenger
Professor Dr. Leonard Swidler


Professor Dr. Riffat Hassan (Chairperson)
Professor Dr. Lilialyce Akers (Co-Chairperson)
Professor Dr. Joy Browne
Dr. Irfan Karachiwala
Professor Robert Stenger
Dr. Ibrahim Syed


Jo Anne Meister (Administrator/Treasurer)
Gloria Porter (Co-Administrator)
Dr. Irfan Karachiwala


Professor Dr. Riffat Hassan (Chairperson)
Professor Dr. Fariyal Ross-Sheriff (Co-Chairperson)
Professor Dr. Lilialyce Akers
Professor Dr. Joy Browne
Jo Anne Meister
Dr. Irfan Karachiwala


Information And Communications Committee
Finance Committee
Fundraising Committee
Public Relations Committee
Outreach Committee
Interreligious Outreach Committee
International Outreach Committee
Grant Writing And Drafting Committee
Theoretical Research Committee
Applied/Field Research Committee
Youth Leadership Committee
Regional Leadership Committee
New Ideas/Initiatives Committee


Humanitarian Assistance Committee
Victim Sponsorship Committee
Medical Assistance Committee
Legal Assistance Committee
Documentation Committee Education Committee

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Contributions and donations to the INRFVVP may be sent to the INRFVVP bank account at FIRSTAR BANK, Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.A. The bank account routing number is 042100175 and the account number is 492351556. They may also be sent to Jo Anne Meister, the INRFVVP Treasurer, at 1022 Riverbrooke Drive, Cox's Creek, Kentucky 40013, U.S.A. (Please note that the INRFVVP is in process of becoming a tax-exempt, non-profit organization to which tax-exempt contributions may be made).
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The headquarters of the INRFVVP are in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.A. The mailing address of the INRFVVP is P.O. Box 17202, Louisville, Kentucky 40217, U.S.A. Its telephone number is 502-634-6754 and its fax number is .
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