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State and non-state actors threaten artists in Pakistan: UPR report

3 April 2017

Broad definitions & unclear procedures in many laws regulating artistic expression enable the arbitrary & abusive interpretation and application of the law.

In Pakistan the right to artistic creativity and expression is protected under the Constitution and international conventions ratified by Pakistan. However, broad definitions and unclear procedures under the Penal Code, Anti-Terror Act and other laws regulating artistic expression enable the arbitrary, abusive and disproportionate interpretation and application of the law, according to a joint UPR stakeholder report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council by Freemuse and Shirkat Gah.

Artists and audiences, including women and transgender artists, also face serious threats from non-state actors that further limit the right to artistic freedom of expression.

The report presents nine specific recommendations on how to improve the situation, including to provide safety and security for artists and audiences, to review vague provisions in multiple laws to ensure these cannot be abused to affect artistic expression and for Pakistan to sign and ratify the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

The report was filed on 30 March 2017 ahead of Pakistan’s third cycle Universal Periodic Review – the UN system’s official mechanism for reviewing all member states’ human rights records in cycles of four-and-a-half years. The review will take place in Geneva on 13 November 2017.

» Read the full Pakistan UPR joint stakeholder submission here

Shirkat Gah is a leading women’s rights organisation in Pakistan. Initiated as a small voluntary women’s collective in 1975, Shirkat Gah has evolved into an organisation that operates out of offices in Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar, including its own facility in Lahore and four field stations across all four provinces. Shirkat Gah’s executive director is Farida Shaheed, the first UN Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights and the author of the report ‘The right to freedom of artistic expression and creativity’ presented to the UN Human Rights Council in 2013.

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