By SHIZA MALIK
ISLAMABAD: Women parliamentarians from 17 countries are arriving in Islamabad on Monday for a conference on the role of women lawmakers in strengthening democracy and social justice. The three-day conference has been organised by the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus.
The women’s caucus, set up in 2008, is a multi-party forum dedicated to discussing issues facing women in Pakistan. Muttahida Qaumi Movement lawmaker Dr Fouzia Hameed said that the women’s caucus has been working across party lines to pass various pieces of legislation which ensure the protection of women’s rights in Pakistan.
Laws protecting the rights of women in Pakistan have been passed in recent years addressing violence against women, workplace harassment, the criminalisation of acid-related violence and electronic crimes.
Dr Hameed said international conferences allow women legislators to learn from their counterparts in other countries. “Whether women live in the developing world or the West, they often face similar challenges and there is much to be learnt from the experiences of others. Lawmakers, themselves, face a myriad of challenges,” she said.
The conference will discuss women’s role in politics and share ideas about improving the cooperation between women parliamentarians across the globe.
PML-N lawmaker Shaista Pervaiz Malik said meeting lawmakers from other countries allows best-practices to be shared. “We hope to learn how women in other countries are overcoming boundaries and breaking the glass ceiling,” she said.
Pakistani women stand at a crossroads, she said. Historic laws protecting the rights of women have been passed but implementation remains a challenge.
“The conviction rate for crimes against women remains low and there is much work to be done to be done by women parliamentarians to improve it. Such conferences can bring an international perspective to our work,” she said.
PML-N lawmaker Shaza Fatima said parliamentarians will share ideas about ensuring social justice for women in their countries. “Social justice includes economic and political justice for women, especially in developing countries. We will be discussing violence against women, harassment in work-places, early marriage, child labour, as well as ways to improve the representation of transgender people in politics,” she said.
Ms Fatima said the conference will conclude with a session on creating and improving cooperation between lawmakers from various countries.