KARACHI – Speakers at a seminar on July 30 demanded that all the laws which are discriminatory towards women, minorities and other weaker sections of society be abolished.
They said besides the laws, various social customs and cultural traditions, were also prevailing in society through which women were suppressed and were not given their due rights.
They were speaking at the seminar on “Feudalism and discriminatory laws and customs against women”, organized by the Labour Education Foundation. Speaking on the occasion, Pakistan People’s Party (Shaheed Bhutto) chief Ghinwa Bhutto, who was the chief guest, said steps be taken to create an awareness among masses by giving them education, and making people economically, politically empowered so that they could take decisions at their own.
She said: “We are living in a tribal society and social customs and traditions are ingrained in the social fabric and these cannot be struck out by a stroke of pen or by making some laws.
Referring to the jirga system, she said that people approach the jirgas as they have little faith in judicial system and they also feel that they had no role in formulating the laws which are formulated by the legislators who come from a different class and usually make laws that suit them, rather than the masses.
She said it is necessary that we struck out the bad laws of the land and bad jirga laws and incorporate the good jirga laws into the laws of the land, so that people could relate to these.
She said that even in the US the native Americans (Red Indians) are ruled by their own tribal laws, such as the Taino tribe in Florida. She said in the US those tribal laws have been codified and made part of the constitution.
She said in Australia the people are calling for a fresh look at justice with one option to incorporate tribal laws into the current system. She said sometimes jirgas gave brutal decisions which need to be checked, but similarly a judge had also sentenced Javed Iqbal, who had murdered 100 children in Lahore, to death and cutting his body in small pieces and putting these pieces in acid barrels – in the same way Javed used to kill his minor victims.
Ms Bhutto said: “How can one renounce such verdicts without renouncing verdicts given against women who have been victims of rape. She said that “how can we renounce those jirgas without renouncing the Huddood Ordinance that has mainly targeted in its punishments women and minorities.”
Earlier, other speakers said that various customs such as karo kari, honour killing, siyahkari, etc., were used to victimize women. They said that in many parts of the country, particularly the rural areas, women were considered as commodities, and were given as compensation to settle disputes between families or tribes, which was a barbaric tradition and should be abolished.
They said earlier the English rulers and later the military dictators, who had ruled the country for a long time, had strengthened the feudals who victimized the masses to keep a firm grip on power.
They said that though awareness was spreading among masses, still they will have to wage a long struggle till they got their due rights. They said earlier the people, who had been victimized, in the rural areas did not go to the police and went to their area feudal to get justice, but now the masses in the rural areas went directly going to the police in time of distress, which proved that awareness was spreading.
They said that though the Sindh High Court had ordered that jirgas could not be held, the order was not being implemented and jirgas were being held and the police did not do anything to stop jirgas.
Labour Party Pakistan chief Nisar Shah, Adam Malik, Nisar Mansoor, Sultana Parveen, Asif Rahim and others also spoke. Earlier, a 20-minute documentary film – Ilzam – produced by Pakistan Women Lawyers Association (PAWLA), was also screened. The film highlighted the miseries of a girl who had married on her free will, but she and her husband were arrested under the Zina Ordinance.