By: Ather Ali Khan
Punjab government’s pronouncement for bringing necessary amendments in laws related to women and making these laws up-to-date in accordance with the present day requirements, is a manifestation of strong commitment of Chief Minister, Punjab, Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif for empowering women folk. As a matter of fact, throughout his stint as Chief Minister Punjab, he has always been busy in trying to remove injustice from the society and especially the discriminatory treatment being meted out to women.
Only two years ago the Chief Minister introduced a comprehensive package of measures – “Punjab Women Empowerment Package 2012” that corroborated the government’s firm commitment to addressing the social and economic rights of women who make up half of the population of Punjab. Much headway has been made in achieving the objectives set forth by him for empowering the women during this period and new vistas of opportunities were being opened for them.
Again a few days ago, while addressing the Punjab Assembly session on 8th March, which is celebrated as International Women’s day, the Chief Minister broke the good news that the Punjab government was introducing vital improvements in legislations pertaining to Child Marriage Act, Dower Act, Guardian and Ward Act, Marriage Registration Form and Inheritance Laws. A comprehensive policy was also being formulated for domestic servants. Birth registration fee was being done away with for encouraging registration of births of girl child. Women will be given mandatory representation in trade unions. Only female contractors will run canteens in girls’ schools and colleges. Provincial commission has already been set up in Punjab and its chairperson was also being nominated. The government has also decided to arrange veterinary training for women and technical training for the wives of industrial workers. Topics regarding equality between male and female are also to be included in the curriculum.
Protecting the rights of women, redressing their social and legal grievances and expanding opportunities available to them has been at the heart of the Government of the Punjab’s commitment to the people, under the leadership of Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif.
The announcements made by the Chief Minister have two aspects: first, it will provide ways and means to effectively safeguard women’s rights and second, it is expected to have far reaching effects on their socio-economic status by expanding opportunities available to them.
A workable, publicly accountable system shall be put in place that ensures that these measures are implemented not just in letter but in their true spirit. The salient features of the Women Empowerment Package presented by the Chief Minister , are:
1. Amendment In Inheritance Laws:
It has been observed that rights of the female heirs are not properly safeguarded due to existing lacunas in the laws and rules governing land administration. Hence, after Inheritance Mutation, partition of the property is being made mandatory through amendment in the law for protecting rights of women.
-Upon the death of a land owner, proceeding for inheritance mutation shall proactively be initiated by the Revenue officer forthwith, without moving application by any of the parties, and shall sanction the mutation as soon as possible.
-Reference to CNIC and B form will be mandatory while sanctioning inheritance mutation so as to ensure that no legal heir is deprived of his/her Fundamental Right to Property.
-Upon sanctioning of inheritance mutation and without application from any of the parties, the Revenue Officer shall forthwith commence proceedings for partition of land.
In order to ensure that there is appropriate operation against those delinquent officers who due to collusion, non-exercise of due diligence or malafide intention deprive a legal heir of his/her right or award less share or less valuable land in the mutation/partition.
2. Women Protection Laws
Comprehensive legislation will be enacted to provide assistance to the female victims of violence covering all kinds of gender based violence including domestic violence.
3.Harassment at Work Place Act:
The following measures are being taken forthwith for the effective implementation of the law:
-The Government appoints an Ombudsperson under Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace.
-‘Code of Conduct for Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace’ shall be implemented in all public offices.
-A Provincial Committee is established to oversee implementation of the Act.
4. Offence of Acid Throwing:
i. An amendment will be made in the Poisons Act,1919 to discourage acid throwing incidents on women.
ii. Acid throwing shall be dealt with under the anti- terrorism laws.
A Provincial Board for Acid Burns Survivors and a Fund shall be established to recommend specialized medical and psychological care and its monitoring.
5. Home Based Workers
Government of the Punjab has formulated a policy for the Home based Workers covering the strategies, plans and programs for the protection and promotion of rights and benefit of Home Based Workers who mostly comprise of female workers.
6. Women Crises & Rehabilitation Help Desks Women Crises & Rehabilitation help desks at district level providing Legal, psychological and basic health referral services shall be provided under the supervision of the DCO and legislated accordingly.
A 24/7 toll free help line shall be established.
7. Property Rights:
The Punjab Government is giving proprietary rights under following schemes:
-Jinnah Abadi Scheme in rural areas of Punjab (approx 90,000 households)
-Residents of Katchi Abadis (approx110,000 households)
-Regularization of residential occupants of state land in village abadis (approx. 700,000 households)
In all the above mentioned schemes, joint title is being given to husband and wife (50% share each).
8. Equal Wages for Work of Equal Value:
Amendments shall be enacted to relevant laws to enforce the right to equal remuneration/wages to men and women for work of equal value.
9. Media Campaign:
A Media Campaign shall be launched for raising awareness of women on legal issues and rights.
PUBLIC SECTOR EMPLOYMENT AND ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT
The following steps are being taken to encourage the role of women in public sector employment:
-Quota for women in public service employment including posts recruited through PPSC shall be enhanced to 15%.
-Women will fill 25 % of general seats as Members of the Punjab Public Service Commission.
-All Boards of statutory organizations, public sector companies and committees as well as special purpose task force and committees shall have at least 33% female representation.
-There shall be at least one woman in all selection and recruitment committees for regular and contractual employment.
-Government shall take affirmative action to radically increase women representation in all administrative leadership positions (including departmental heads and key field offices).
-33% of consultants in Provincial Ombudsman Office shall be women.
-All women contractual employees shall be entitled to avail an additional chance of transfer to place of residence of spouse in case of marriage
-House rent of only one spouse will be deducted if government accommodation is allotted and both are government servants
2. Maternity Leave:
The following changes shall be made in rules:
-Application of maternity leave shall deem to be approved as soon as maternity leave application is moved to the immediate superior
-Women will not be required to provide fitness certificate on joining after availing maternity leave.
-Maternity leave shall not be less than 90 days. Condition to avail 45 days before and 45 days after will be abolished.
-One week paternity leave will be admissible for male employees for two children.
3. Age Relaxation:
Age relaxation upto 3 years shall be allowed to females for fresh induction over and above normal upper age ceiling including existing general relaxation, for the purpose of encouraging employment in the public sector and to enable women to join professional career after marriage & childbearing.
4. Daycare Centers:
The Chief Ministers Day Care Initiative is being announced with the following elements:
-A Punjab Day Care Fund is being established to support working women to make workplaces women friendly on a co-finance basis.
-An initial grant of Rs. 100 million is being provided to the Fund for disbursement through an open proposal mechanism from NPOs, NGOs/CBO and public organizations. The Fund will comprise of independent trustees with Women Development Department working as its Secretariat.
-The Punjab Civil Secretariat will set up a Flagship Day Care Center.
-Day Care Centers will be mandatory in all public sector offices (including universities, colleges, hospitals and other organizations) with 5 or more than 5 female employees.
-Amendment in appropriate laws will be enacted to make it mandatory for all commercial/industrial establishments to have a Day Care on their premises.
-Daycare shall also be an eligible category for financing out of the Workers’ Welfare Fund.
-Guidelines and standards will be developed and communicated by the Women Development Department.
-Punjab Skills Development Fund, as per its mandate, shall finance training for developing skilled workforce for the Day Care Centers.
5. Women Entrepreneurs:
The Bank of Punjab announces a “Women Entrepreneurship Financing Scheme” for loans for commercial ventures by women for initiatives including: Day care Centers, bakeries, eateries, catering, furniture, interior designing, boutiques, fitness gyms, event management, vocational institutes, driving schools, jewelry, clothing and accessories, and any other feasible projects.
-Rs. two billion has been allocated to this scheme.
-Business Development Services will be extended by BoP. A panel of experts will be engaged for initial advice followed by feasibility study & business plan preparation.
-Job creation shall be one of the criteria for approval of loan application by the Bank of Punjab.
-Green field projects shall also be eligible.
6.Interest Free Loans for Women:
Government of Punjab will allocate an additional Rs. one billion for the year 2012-2013 for disbursement of loans through Akhuwat with a target to support atleast 33% women of its total beneficiaries.
7. Other Measures:
-Career Development Centers will be established in all Public Sector Women Universities. Counseling facilities shall be set up in post-graduate colleges.
-Amenities for women shall be provided in all public offices: separate washroom and prayer room be designated in existing buildings.
-All new buildings should incorporate proper facilities for women. (Washroom and prayer room)