Iftikhar A. Khan
ISLAMABAD: The Senate unanimously passed on Thursday a bill for establishment of a commission with financial and administrative powers aimed at promoting social, economic, political and legal rights of women.
The National Assembly has already passed the National Commission on Status of Women Bill, 2012.
Although two members raised objections on technical grounds, the bill smoothly sailed through the Senate.
Prof Khurshid Ahmed of Jamaat-i-Islami proposed that the bill be sent to the relevant committee of the Senate. He pointed out that no qualification had been specified in the bill for the chairperson of the commission and suggested that he/she should be a professional and competent person.
Rehmatullah Kakar of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F said that under a clause 18 years of experience in promotion of the cause of women’s rights was required to become the chairperson, but the bill mentioned no criterion for gauging his/her commitment to women’s rights.
Tahir Hussain Mashhadi of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, while forcefully supporting the bill, warned that any attempt to defer it would be a disservice not only to the cause of women but humanity at large.
Members from almost all parties termed the passage of the bill need of the hour. They pointed out that women constituted 52 per cent of the country’s population, but still they were an oppressed segment of society in search of justice. The law, they observed, would go a long way in addressing the problems faced by women in a male-dominated society.
According to the statement of objects and reasons, the bill is aimed at empowerment of women, equalisation of opportunities, improvement in socio-economic conditions, elimination of all forms of discrimination against them and other matters concerned.
The fundamental functions of the commission will be to examine policies, programmes and other measures initiated by the government for women’s uplift and gender equality. It will assess implementation and make suitable recommendations, considered necessary for effective impact, to the authorities concerned.
The commission will also review all laws, rules and regulations, affecting the status and rights of women and suggest repeal, amendment or new legislation essential to eliminate discrimination, safeguard and promote women’s interest and achieve gender equality before law in accordance with the country’s Constitution and obligations under international covenants and commitments.
The government, through a public notice, would invite suggestions for appointing a suitable person as chairperson of the commission and after a proper scrutiny submit a list of individuals to the prime minister and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, who would forward the list to a parliamentary committee to be constituted by the NA speaker.
Half of the members of the committee will be from the treasury benches and the other half from the opposition parties according to their strength in parliament.
The commission with the prior permission of the provincial government concerned may inspect any jail, sub-jail or others places of custody where women are kept.