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Senate body urges zero tolerance for violence against women

ISLAMABAD: Senate Standing Committee on Women Development has emphasized zero tolerance for violence against women in all forms and manifestations as well as early adoption of the proposed bill by parliament to protect women against harassment at work place.

This would pave the way for establishing an institutional mechanism in this regard. The committee, which met here under the Chairpersonship of Senator Mrs Tahira Latif, also underscored the need for change in attitudes and mindset of the society, particularly in the rural areas, where bulk of the population lives.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Sherry Rahman, and Leader of the House in the Senate and Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Raza Rabbani were specially invited and members of the committee noted with concern during the meeting that violence against women was so deep-rooted in the society that intellectual debates at elitist fora alone would not be able to serve the purpose.

The committee asked the government to provide more funds and staff to the Ministry of Women Development for undertaking this venture.Sherry Rahman assured the body of her ministry’s full cooperation to the women development ministry and other organisations working for the cause of women, especially with regard to the preparation of media campaign for sensitisation.

Sherry Rahman said during her tenure as Minister in-charge of the Ministry of Women Development, she invited women groups and NGOs to come up with a campaign and programme and she would use her good offices for screening the material on private TV channels in addition to the state-owned PTV.

A judicious use of radio, which has greater outreach, was also suggested in this regard. She further said in the meeting the government desired the Women Bill should originate in the Senate and hoped the vetting/amendments being made by the Law Division would not defeat the original purpose of the bill.

The government would continue to accord priority to welfare of women in the country, she added.Earlier, the committee was informed that consistent hard work and labour of six years had gone into the Draft Bill, aimed at eliminating violence and harassment at work places.

The Ministry of Women Development, women activists, NGOs, human rights organisations and other stakeholders have been consulted in all the four provinces of the country to improve and finetune its contents.

It covers both the formal and informal sectors and inter-alia seeks to bind every organisation to set up a three-member regulatory body (at least one of whom would be a woman), which would also be authorised to conduct inquiries while looking into complaints of harassment.

The committee was also informed that the office of Ombudsman would be created in the second tier in this regard.The committee expressed its dismay and surprise over the disclosure of prevalence of sexual harassment at factories, particularly the garments, pharma industry, packaging, knitwear, brick kilns, domestic maid servants etc.

These women would now have at least one effective channel to seek redressal, it was observed. Members of the committee, including Senators Sardar Jamal Khan Leghari, Muhammad Ayaz Khan Jogezai, Mrs Razina Alam Khan and Ms Fauzia Fakhuruzzaman also attended the meeting.

It was also suggested that women organisations and NGOs may be asked to develop documentaries on how to seek redressal in case of harassment/violence and to screen the same in the rural areas of the country.
Source: The News
Date:12/19/2008

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