IN a significant move the National Assembly has unanimously passed ‘The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Amendment) Bill 2010’.
It is a landmark achievement for the democratic government where women are concerned.
If we look at Pakistan’s history, it is only in a democratic context that women find their voice and make themselves heard. Now women are progressing day by day.
All around the world today, we are seeing a visible increase in Pakistani women’s participation in almost every socio-cultural, economic and political sector of modern-day society as politicians, parliamentarians, government ministers, voters, rights advocates and practitioners, lobbyists, sportswomen, scientists, astronauts, fighter pilots, military and police personnel, judges and lawyers, corporate leaders, entrepreneurs, media women, environmentalists, etc.
But as we recognise the tremendous progress of Pakistani women, we must also take cognisance of certain grim realities of our society that still hinder our women from realising their full potential with peace and safety. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s development indicators for women’s health, education and economic empowerment continue to be dismal.
It has been a practice in Pakistan’s history that women are deprived of their basic rights all over the country, especially in rural Sindh, Balochistan and Southern Punjab. The burying alive of five women in Balochistan last year and the death of a lady health worker in Sindh this year due to acid attack remind us of the ugly facets of our society that continue to threaten Pakistani women and endanger their lives.
Along with worrying challenges, our troubled times are also witnessing exciting new forms of dynamism. By granting new opportunities to women, we can leverage for making our socio-economic and political structure and systems work not just for women but for every marginalised section and community in our country.
The passage of this bill is a ray of hope for the women of our country. Now there is no more restriction for her to claim her share of inheritance or give her hand in marriage or otherwise in ‘Badla-i-Sulh’, ‘Wani’ or ‘Sawara’.
The passage of this bill has showed to the world that women and men have equal rights in Pakistan. It is a laudable step by the government and will be remembered in times to come.
HAFIZ M. IRFAN
Need for implementation
THIS refers to the news report, ‘NA passed pro-women bill unanimously’ (Nov 16). The bill was pending in the National Assembly for a long time and it seemed that some elements were blocking this important bill intentionally.
It is encouraging that the bill has now been passed and it is expected that the coming law would be helpful in improving the critical condition of women in the country.
It is alarming to note that violence against women is increasing with the passage of time as reported by the media. It indicates that society needs to transform its beliefs and practices regarding the gender issue.
It is pertinent to understand that only passing a law cannot change conditions for women; rather it needs full-spirited implementation.
Furthermore, serious measures are also needed to change the stereotyped notions about women’s existence in society.
In this regard serious efforts are required at various levels such as family, education, media and society to fight against the ill-practices and violence against women.
Vani and Swara
ALTHOUGH the bill was approved unanimously, the less enthusiastic clapping upon its approval tells the story behind it.
The bill directly strikes at the prevailing practices against women’s rights in the very domains of a number of rural and tribal areas’ parliamentarians.
Once approved by the Senate, this new law will levy jail terms and fines on those who would indulge in practices such as Vani and Swara. It will also criminalise the so-called marriage to the Holy Quran (wherein a girl is forced to take the oath on the Holy Quran to remain unmarried for the rest of her life. In other words, her share in family property and inheritance remains within the domain of family).
Also those who will indulge in forced marriages or adopt deceitful or illegal means to deprive a woman of her share in family property/inheritance will face jail terms and hefty fines.
In short, most of the traditional practices which end up treating girls and women as property or an item for sale rather than human beings are being targeted in this piece of legislation. Now starts the most difficult part of the struggle.
To change the mediaeval mindset who has been the custodian of such practices for centuries is the most difficult task.
Perhaps fear of imprisonment and hefty fines may help to improve the situation. However, if not enforced by the very police who generally work under the thumb of feudal lords and tribal chiefs, this law or any other law will remain just part of dusty criminal code books. And tradition will be the winning horse like it has been for centuries.
It’s time for the electronic media to come forward and help to change the traditions.