ISLAMABAD – Lack of awareness, complicated system of complaints and societal pressure in the male dominated society are the major challenges in implementation of the laws devised to protect women from harassment.
The speakers at one-day National Consultation on the issues and challenges in the implementation of pro-women laws organised by Women’s Parliamentary Caucus were unanimous that violation of women laws is a collective fight and it requires a collective effort.
The Consultation held at the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services (PIPS), Islamabad was attended by parliamentarians from National and four provincial assemblies and two legislative assemblies of Azad Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, representatives from police, medico-legal and education department.
The speakers said that under the protection against harassment of women at the Workplace Act 2010, the person who harasses women could be awarded severe punishments. But since women hesitate to complain, and those who dare don’t get justice, not only discourage other complainants but also encourage the culprits.
The harassment of women at the Workplace Act 2010, defines harassment as any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favour or other verbal or written communication or physical conduct of a sexual nature, or sexually demeaning attitudes, causing interference with work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
It goes on to add that the abuse of authority, creating a hostile work environment, and retaliation are the three categories that mandate action against a harasser.
MNA Shaista Pervaiz Malik, Secretary Caucus, 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. She said the recommendations drawn from this consultation would be considered for adoption and strategizing future actions by the relevant quarters.
Minister of State for Information Mariam Aurangzeb termed education the key to progress of women and girls.
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 said.
Chairperson NCSW Khawar Mumstaz highlighted the struggle of women of Pakistan and gave historical references to the importance of February 12 for women movement.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 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 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.
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.
Ashtar Ausaf Ali, Attorney General of Pakistan in his concluding remarks discussed the issues that the medico-legal departments face with account of which timely processing of forensics and processes become slow.
He said repeated violation of laws by communities, impedes effective implementation of any law in the country. He emphasised 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. He said that violation of women laws is a collective fight and assured to extend his support in mitigating it.