ISLAMABAD:(APS)Feb 9,2017-To commemorate the National Women’s Day that falls on the 12th of February, the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus organized a one day National Consultation on the issues and challenges in the implementation of pro-women laws. The Consultation was held at the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services (PIPS) in Islamabad. Women and men parliamentarians from National level and across the four provincial assemblies and the two legislative assemblies of Azad Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan were invited to participate. In addition, relevant stakeholders from executive branch of the government including the Police, medico-legal, media, and education department were invited to share their perspectives and challenges in the implementation of these laws.
Secretary Caucus, MNA Shaista Pervaiz Malik opened the Consultation with her welcome address. In her address, she said that caucus has addressed the key issues faced by Pakistani women through legislative measures as well as knowledge sharing and continuous advocacy. A number of pro women legislations have been enacted but the conviction rates remain low and still women cannot access justice. This National Consultation was also part of the WPC’s endeavors to address these challenges. “We are them and we ARE for them. We have always stood for them and we shall continue to stand by them”, a strong resolve shown by the Secretary Caucus in which she assured her commitment and stance on working for the social, economic and political uplift the of women of the country. The recommendations drawn from this Consultation would be considered for adoption and strategizing future actions by the relevant quarters, she said.
Minister of State for Information, Ms Mariam Aurangzeb stated in her Keynote that the key to progress of women and girls in the country is education. Unless a woman is not treated equally on the basis of education with male counterparts at the household level, the struggle to attain equality would continue. She also emphasized on the importance of engaging men in the process of bringing empowerment for women.
Chairperson NCSW, Ms. Khawar Mumstaz highlighted the struggle of women of Pakistan and gave historical references to the importance of February 12th for women movement. She congratulated women caucus for continuing the struggle for women’s political and economic empowerment by introducing pro women laws and also acknowledged the efforts of the Caucus in highlighting the challenges in implementation of these laws and suggested way forward to improve the situation of women in the country.
Secretary Ministry of Human Rights, Ms Rabiya Javeri Agha stated that despite many women focused legislations in place, Pakistan continues to rank low in gender index on account of weak institutional mechanisms. If improvement is desired, the institutions like Ministry of Human Rights and Women Development Departments, Women Commissions and Caucuses need to be strengthened and empowered with sufficient budgetary allocation and human resource. She also stressed on the need for collective efforts with civil society for addressing the gaps in implementation of pro women laws.
Mr. John O Brien, Country Representative for Trocaire highlighted the organization’s commitments and programmes for strengthening institutions, improving response mechanisms and facilitating survivors and victims of gender based violence. He also showed commitment to support National and Provincial Women Parliamentary Caucuses form empowering women and girls and to eliminate all forms of gender based discrimination. He also committed Trocaire’s support in establishment of the commission in Sindh, strengthening its impact in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and continuing their engagement with national commission and Federal Women Parliamentary Caucus.
Plenary 1 chaired by MPA KP, Ms Mairaj Humayun, Chairperson Women Parliamentary Caucus discussed about challenges in implementation of Harassment at Work Place Act 2010. Ms Maliha Saeed from AASHA (Alliance Against Sexual Harassment) shared overview of the implementation of the law. Panelists from Police, health, higher education and civil aviation discussed benefits of the law and how their institutions have taken steps to implement this law. Plenary 2 chaired by Ms Raheela Durrani, Speaker Balochistan Assembly discussed the issues and gaps that challenge the implementation of pro-women legal frameworks. Internal and external factors impeding elimination of violence against women and their access to justice as well as gaps in existing response mechanisms were discussed. Representatives from national police bureau and human rights activists were among the panelists. Pleanary 3, immediately followed by the Concluding Session discussed the roles of mindsets in Law enforcement and lack of awareness as major impediments to implementation of pro women laws and policies. The plenary was chaired by Mr Ashtar Ausaf Ali, Attorney General of Pakistan who also gave concluding remarks. He noted the issues that the medico-legal departments are faced with on account of which timely processing of forensics and processes become slow.
The Consultation was a huge success with proactive participation from representatives from government, stakeholders and experts and was concluded by Mr Ashtar Ausaf Ali who pointed out towards repeated violation of laws by communities which impedes effective implementation of any law in the country. He emphasized on the importance of data collection and commended the government’s initiative to hold the census in March 2017 which would serve to effectively implement laws and development programs. Violation of women laws is a collective fight and he assured to extend his support in mitigating it.