By Inamullah Khattak
ISLAMABAD: Speakers, including women activists, donors, civil society and National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) representatives, at a national consultation here on Wednesday, asked provincial governments to effectively control gender-based violence after devolution of ministries.
The consultation titled `Gender equality and women`s empowerment` was held to discuss the challenges and threats posed to women after devolution. The speakers emphasised that provincial governments should pass legislations for the welfare of women and protection of their rights.
Ambassador for empowerment of women, Fiza Batool Gilani said the federal government was committed to protecting women from domestic violence and workplace harassment, adding after devolution provinces had been given the responsibility to ensure the political and social rights of women.
However, women activists on the occasion asked the federal government to pass the pending pro-women and anti-violence bills, including Domestic Violence Bill, Domestic Offenses and Social Protection for Home-based Women Workers Bill, from parliament in order to provide legal cover to their rights.
Adviser to the prime minister on human rights Mustafa Khokhar said provinces should prepare themselves for monitoring gender-based violence as the entire responsibility relating to women issues now rested with the federating units.
The need for a greater coordination with provinces was also highlighted and the NCSW on the occasion vowed to keep the provinces abreast of women issues and challenges.
The federal government was also asked to give administrative and financial independence to the NCSW, so that it could take initiatives on its own. The speakers said currently the commission was not in a position to take unilateral decisions.
Country director of UN Women, Alice H. Shackelford said Pakistan was signatory to the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and supposed to ensure that there was no discriminatory law against women.
She expressed the hope that after devolution, the provinces would safeguard women rights in each sector supported by the federal government and relevant stakeholders, including civil society organisations and women activists.
Representatives from the four provinces vowed to take guidance from stakeholders for ensuring the gender equity programmes besides discouraging anti-women norms like forced marriages.
They also resolved to give due considerations to problems faced by women in rural areas where several cases of domestic violence went unheard and where access to police and judiciary was still quite difficult for women.
In this regard, the participants called for creating awareness among rural women and giving consultations and help for making their voices heard by police and the judiciary.