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Pakistan, women and politics

LAHORE, Sept 17: The issue of violence against women in politics was looked at with a Pakistani perspective on the second day of the South Asia Partnership’s regional conference here on Thursday.

Justice Nasira Javaid Iqbal (retired) gave a presentation along with Rukshanda Naz on the national laws in Pakistan.

Panellists who discussed the electoral system included Mehfuza Folad, Camena Gunaratne, Raffit Javaid and Rabbia Bajwa.

Pakistan People’s Party MPA Sajida Mir shared her experiences in politics with the audience. She was followed by Samina Naz Charsadda, Nasreen Awan and Naheed Bukhari.

The first session was concluded by Anis Haroon, chairperson of the National Commission on Status of Women. “These women are role models, as they passed through a very violent struggle to become part of politics. We must recognise women as catalysts of change in society,” Anis said.

This session recommended that the criteria for election of the president should be changed, more women should be given representation in elected bodies, political parties should be democratised, alternate media should be introduced and dictatorship should be eliminated once for all.

The second session dealt with the topic of the culture of political parties and the role of the media. MPA Amna Butter gave a presentation, followed by Sheen Farrukh, who said that “women’s empowerment is not the media’s concern in Pakistan” generally that in fact resorts to sensationalism in news stories. Another sad fact is that the media mostly avoids stories on women issues, reporters do not take up such stories themselves and the electronic media is more concerned with making business through advertisements. Ms Farrukh also said that various media organisations within the country should work in close collaboration with each other and with civil society at large to achieve desired results.

Panellists Maliha Sahak, Chitra Lekha Yadav, Shobha Shrestha, Bushra Gohar and Neelam Hussain replied to questions and concerns from the media present.

I.A. Rahman, secretary general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, concluded the session, saying that “any system other than democracy is based on violence…other systems degrade women to a lower status”. In Pakistan, he observed, women were known courtesy their men folk. Unless women come into politics through their own efforts, they would not be recognised. Women should be acknowledged as productive individuals and liberated by society first. The power they could yield in politics was related to their freedom in society, economic independence, etc. Patriarchy and all that it entailed had to be driven out of people’s minds.

Rohit Kumar Nepali, executive director of SAP International, rounded up the discussions of the two-day conference, saying that structural violence, systemic violence and political violence existed in one form or the other whereby women were denied the right to practice freely. Yet the people who performed such acts of violence, however subtle they might be, were actually cowards. This issue, he added, was not a SAP issue, but its concern was humans. What is required is that this issue gets momentum and gets lobbied to an international level to make them gender sensitive. The media, Rohit said, was sensitised, but it needed to do more on this topic. More space should be created for women politicians in assemblies, local bodies, etc.

Syed Nurul Alam, Shobha Shrestha and Mohammad Tahseen thanked all participants and distributed gifts to the people who joined the conference from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, also mentioning that the next meeting of SAP International was scheduled to be held in Dhaka in November.
Source: Dawn
Date:9/18/2009

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