‘Rising fundamentalism, extremism threaten women’s cultural rights’

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Karachi: Reporting on the discussions held recently at the United Nations on the report presented by the special UN rapporteur on cultural rights to the General Assembly of the world body in March 2017, noted artiste and leading social activist Sheema Kermani said the unanimous consensus was that the rising trends of fundamentalism the world over were posing the cultural rights of women a pernicious threat. In the report, Dr Karima Bennoune, special rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights Council, has addressed the phenomenon of fundamentalism and extremism and their adverse impact on cultural rights of women.

Kermani said a video of her dance performance at the shrine of Shahbaz Qalandar was also shown. She said she spoke on effects of fundamentalism on artistic freedoms and that was why she felt it was important to dance in public after the terrorist attack.

Kermani said she apprised the participants about the way fundamentalist and extremist groups were trying to quash all artistic expression which ran counter to their own cultural agenda. Such obscurantist groups, she said, targeted women and marginalised groups like the minorities.

“What such efforts have in common is a mindset based on intolerance. Over the last 20 years, women have struggled to end these discriminatory laws but the advances achieved in this regard have been rolled back.”

The obscurantists, she said, penalised and stigmatised women human rights activists. Kermani said she made an appeal to the world body to help end such obscurantist tendencies. The media, she said, could play a decisive role in sensitising society to progressive values, and art, education and science could help counter extremism.

She recommended that all governments across the globe should be made to contribute at least one per cent of the GDP to cultural development. Arts Council President Ahmed Shah, lauding the bold and fearless stance adopted by Kermani, said no society could claim to be advanced till such time as its womenfolk were emancipated.

“Women like Sheema have made a mighty contribution towards this emancipation and her struggle has borne fruit. However, when it comes to actual implementation, the effect is nil.” Quoting cases of exploitation of women, he quoted the recent shameful incident of the assault on a young woman in Dera Ghazi Khan.

He said that there was criticism and all sorts of allegations of anti-patriotic activity when such cases were reported but, “dirt in a society must be exposed for that’s the only way it can be eliminated”.

Dr Sher Shah, a noted medical personality who is equally known for his social activism, said, “No society can flourish when the health of half its component goes by default.” He said this while commenting on the abysmal lack of health facilities for women. “Ours is the only country in the world where women’s art is construed as sexual exhibitionism.” This was followed by an animated question-answer session.courtesy The News

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