By: Sadia Qasim Shah
PESHAWAR: Reasons cited by women legislators of the previous Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly for their failure to legislate on women’s rights are numerous but the fact remains that only one law was passed during the last five years to protect women’s right to property.
The progressive Awami National Party-led coalition government passed a law to establish the Women’s Commission on the Status of Women in 2009, while only one law i.e. the ‘Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Enforcement of Women Ownership Rights Act, 2012’ tabled by PPP legislator Noor Sahar could be passed by the provincial assembly having 22 women as members.
“We can’t say previous assembly passed many laws to protect women’s rights,” said Shabina Ayaz, who heads Aurat Foundation, Peshawar, which works on women’s rights and awareness.
She said women’s concerns hadn’t been voiced and she felt disappointed at how women legislators became part of power politics.
Little efforts were made by some women legislators to introduce private member’s bills about issues like child marriages, internal trafficking and domestic violence.
However, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Child Marriage Restraint Bill that an ANP legislator wanted to introduce was withdrawn on the same day.
Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill was also referred to the House Committee and thus, died its own death.
The Home-based Workers’ Bill also didn’t pass by the assembly.
When the former legislators were asked what stopped them from legislation on women’s rights that was their prime responsibility, some said they belonged to the opposition, so they could not gather enough support for the passage of a bill and that only tabled one or two resolutions.
“Honestly I have not tabled any bill. I wanted to work on acid and burns issue and sale of acid but didn’t because I learned the government is already working on it,” said Mehr Sultana, former MPA.
She, however, said like other members, she had been actively part of different committees of the House and gave feedback on the matter.
“We have learned a lot in the last five years about legislation and now, when we have the experience to legislate, our term is over,” she said.
Some former MPAs insisted that sometimes, their bills were not supported by other members, while some blamed bureaucratic hurdles for failure to pass a bill in the House as the government supported the bills, which served the bureaucracy’s interest.
By and large, the tabling of the private member’s bills was discouraged.
However, Musarrat Shafi of ANP and Shazia Tehmas of PPP claimed that they had raised voice on the women’s issues in the House.
Women rights’ activists said when the women’s representation was slashed from 33 per cent to 18 per cent in the local government under ‘The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Act, 2012’ passed by the previous assembly, no one from among women legislators raised voice against it.
The women rights’ bodies and NGOs say women legislators are no different from men in some cases.
“We support them (women lawmakers) so that they voice women’s problems but by and large, they listen to their respective political parties only,” said Ms Ayaz.
Women rights’ bodies working in the province feel 22 women legislators from the progressive parties, which were majority in the previous assembly, could make many excuses for not legislating on women rights but what they could do was to show unity and raise the women’s concerns on different issues on the floor of the House but unfortunately, they didn’t.