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Newfound emancipation: Most women unaware of Women’s Protection Act

ISLAMABAD: Many women participants at an event held to celebrate the Women’s Protection Act, 2006, at the Convention Centre on Tuesday were found ignorant about the background of the bill and a number of government employees said that they knew nothing about the issue. The government celebrated the passage of the bill and brought a number of women from rural areas, including students, local government councilors, women health workers, teachers and government employees, to attend the function.

They had mixed opinions about the event and women health workers on the occasion demanded President General Pervez Musharraf increase their salaries. Farhat Yasmeen, a woman health worker, tried to send a written appeal to the president during the function, but could not reach him. “We are getting Rs 1,800 per month and we wrote about our problems in a message, but the officials caught it and we now know that it cannot reach the president,” she said.

“We don’t know what is going on in here, we were earlier told that some colourful function had been organised for women.” She said that she was eager to attend the function, but had no idea or information about the bill. She said that along with passing laws, the government should take other practical steps to resolve the problems being faced by the country’s women, including lack of education, healthcare and job security.
Girl students from the National University of Modern Languages (NUML) also were unaware of the bill.

“We are not interested in the bill, as we know it is another political ‘drama’,” they said.
Ayesha, a student, said that the government should raise awareness among women about the laws it had passed, adding that the government should train police to deal with victims of violence and improve support services, such as shelters and burn units for women. She said that women empowerment through education and skill development for economic independence was more important for countering gender-based violence than “these laws and acts”. Teachers attending the event said that women in Pakistan had been consistently complaining of being isolated from the mainstream of society.

Teachers from government colleges said that instead of organising such events, the government ought to focus on problems being faced by women living in rural areas.
Yasmeen Shahab of Margalla College said that the real issue facing women was education, adding that if there were a 100 percent literacy rate among women, they would be in a better position to protect their interests and rights. “If they are given a fair chance, they can contribute more to the development of society,” she said. She said that illiteracy was the “root cause” of women’s problems, adding that an illiterate woman was helpless against domestic violence and discrimination. She said that Pakistani society was “male dominated” and had a hostile attitude towards women.

She said that the development of women had been hindered by a number of factors. She said that rural woman had to undergo “unbearable” dominance by men. Another teacher said that lack of education and moral values was the root cause of injustices meted out to women, adding “society encouraged men to subdue women”.“I don’t find any viable solution for eliminating the problem of violence against women in this bill,” she said. She said that the government should launch a programme to increase awareness among women about domestic violence, adding that men should also be informed of the issues.

Praising the Women’s Protection Act, one councilor said that it was a timely measures to address the problems of more than half of the country’s population, adding that opposition to the bill was unjustified.“I think the government’s efforts to encourage people to talk about such issues will increase understanding about the issue,” she said. She said that the act would benefit the country’s women and help provide justice to them, adding that violence against women was a crime against humanity. When asked about the act, majority of the councilors said that they were not fully aware of the act or why they had been brought there.
Source: Daily Times
Date:12/6/2006

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