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MPAs want pro-women bill passed into law

KARACHI: Several women members of the Sindh Assembly on Thursday expressed their dismay over an inordinate delay in the passing of a pro-women bill into law despite its passage by the Senate.

Taking part in a debate on women’s empowerment on a day marking the 101st International Women’s Day, women members from the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) and other parties moved no fewer than 13 resolutions calling for an effective end to violence and discrimination against women in Pakistan and implementation of all laws empowering women.

On a suggestion by Law Minister Ayaz Soomro, all the resolutions were clubbed together and the final one was unanimously adopted by all present MPAs.

Before the resolution was put to a vote, Information Minister Shazia Marri, Women Development Minister Tauqeer Fatima Bhutto, MPAs Heer Ismael Sohu, Nusrat Seher Abbasi, Humera Alwani, Farheen Mughal, Sassui Palijo, Marvi Rashdi and Nargis N.D. Khan paid tribute to great women of the country, including Oscar-winning film-maker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinnoy and young IT wizard the late Arfa Karim Randhawa, for their outstanding achievements in their respective fields. They also recounted a number of women politicians, including Benazir Bhutto, who not only held the positions of prime minister, foreign minister, assembly speaker, state bank governor and head of various major state institutions but also proved their own mettle.

Some of the speakers, however, expressed their dismay over the failure of the house to pass a comprehensive bill on women’s rights into law even on the occasion of International Women’s Day. Had the pending bill against domestic violence been taken up and passed today, this would have been a glowing tribute to women on this occasion, they observed.

They paid tribute to all women who had been striving for their constitutional rights and an equal status and empowerment despite all odds in a male-dominated society.Criticising what they called ‘the anti-women mindset of certain members of the house’, they urged all male MPAs to stop resisting the passage of the pending bill.

During the debate, Ms Sohu, being a member of the panel of chairpersons for the session, assumed the chair after another member of the panel, Dr Sikander Mandhro, left the house. She provided ample opportunity to a number of lawmakers to express their views on the issues of women.

Continuing their speeches, women MPAs said that although the PPP government had been encouraging women to hold key positions in the government and enacting various laws further empowering women of the country, the desired results were yet to be achieved for want of an effective implementation of these laws while women were still subjected to rape, forced marriages, honour killing, hateful customs, disrespect and all forms of violence.

Sardar Nadir Magsi, Rafique Engineer, Syed Khalid Ahmad, Shoaib Bukhari and Salim Khurshid Khokhar also expressed their views in the house and said women deserved respect in society. They observed that women issues in Pakistan were most complicated because of illiteracy and improper education. They also called for getting rid of taboos.

The resolution reads: “This assembly is proud to commemorate the 101st anniversary of the International Women’s Day on March 8, 2012; it reiterates the resolve and commitment to the effect that women of Pakistan are entitled to full rights and privileges as enunciated by our Holy Prophet (PBUH) and as enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan; pays tribute to the women of Pakistan; appreciates the pro-women legislation and programmes introduced by the government designed to further emancipate and empower the women of Pakistan; hails the inimitable women of Pakistan who have proven their mettle time and again, and have brought international glory to their country; and strongly condemns the anti-women mindset that gives rise to misogynistic attitudes, words and actions”.

The house which was called to order at 11.30am was adjourned at 2.35pm till Friday morning.