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International Women’s Day: ‘At least 10-year jail term for crimes against women’

ISLAMABAD: Violence against women was strongly condemned in a dialogue titled ‘Gender Violence — State Responsiveness and Accountability’ with reference to International Women’s Day on Wednesday.

Justice (r) Nasira Javed Iqbal claimed that the government was not interested in empowering women and that it legislated for political purposes only. “There is a dire need for positive legislation and its active implementation,” she said. She said clerics should not be involved in law making, quoting Quaid-e-Azam who said that religion had nothing to do with state business. She criticised “mild” punishments for crimes like rape, trafficking, wani, karokari and other anti-women practices adopted in society.

She said that violent crimes against women should be punished by at least 10 years imprisonment and that these offences should be non-bailable. Nasira said no province had a female judge which showed the opportunities available to women. Function participants stressed the need for active implementation of already existing women’s protection laws and said the practice of covering up cases of violence should end.

Mohammad Ali Saif, an advisor to the minister for women and youth affairs, admitted that there were weaknesses in the policy-making process to protect women. He said, “We are aware of the flaws in the system but it will take time to remove them”.

He said it was easy to criticise the government for any policy or law but that it was also a reality that the government did not have a magic wand, with which to remove all problems within no time. He praised President Pervez Musharraf for passing an ordinance allowing women prisoners to be released on bail.

Law and Human Rights Ministry Additional Secretary Hakim Khan said the ministry was trying its best to make laws to protect women. He said a bill, put up in parliament, would help reduce violence against women.

Islamabad Traffic Police SP Halina Saeed spoke against the hostile attitude of men towards women. She said, “Women just want an environment in which they can work comfortably.”

She said the government should care for ordinary women before making any policy. “Almost 64 amendments have been made in the police department over the last four years but we, who are working the department, are unaware of them,” she said.

Absar Alam, a senor journalist, highlighted the crucial role of media in society. He said, “Media should portray women in a positive light and should avoid using them for exhibition.” Naeem Mirza, of the Aurat Foundation, called for special legislation against domestic violence.

Source: Daily Times

Date:3/8/2007

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