By: Hassan Naqvi
LAHORE: “Pakistan is the third most dangerous country for women. The Punjab has the highest number of cases of domestic violence. They are increasing at the rate of 10 per cent annually,” said MPA Dr Nausheen Hamid said on Sunday.
She was addressing the launching ceremony of Women’s Legislative Agenda: Current Status and the Way Forward. The event was organised by AAWAZ Voice and Accountability Programme and Aurat Foundation.
AAWAZ is a five-year accountability programme funded by the Department for International Development operating in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Punjab.
The project is implemented through five NGOs; the Aurat Foundation, the SPO, The South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK), the Sungi Development Foundation and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
Hamid said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had tabled a bill in the Punjab Assembly to protect women against domestic violence on January 17. She said Pakistan Penal Code’s (PPC) Section 337 protected women from domestic violence but had not been enforced.
“We need separate legislation for women…the existing laws do not [specifically] protect women. Most women do not speak up against domestic violence because people consider it to be a family matter which can be resolved behind closed doors,” she said.
Hamid said the government needed to take the issue of domestic violence seriously and impose strict penalties on those who subjected women to violence. “Often families turn against their women. We need laws to protect women from their own families,” she said. She said a mechanism should be available for women besides police stations and FIRs.
Minister for Population Welfare Begum Zakia Shahnawaz said the government took legislation to protect women very seriously. She said several committees had been constituted to draft laws in this regard.
Shahnawaz said the government would consider the recommendations mentioned in the Women Legislative Agenda. She said the chief minister would announce a comprehensive package for women on March 8.
Women Development Department Secretary Irum Bukhari highlighted various initiatives taken by the government to protect women. She said the issue of child marriage would also be addressed in the March 8 package. She said women’s rights in property disputes and acid attack cases would be given priority in the legislation.
Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) regional head Salman Abid said that along with legislation, the government should also devise a mechanism for implementation of laws.
Abid criticised the current mechanism system to address women’s issues and said, “The monitoring system has loopholes. It is important to devise a new monitoring system taking all stakeholders on board.”
Working Women Foundation Executive Director Aima Mahmood said, “We need to train female parliamentarians in a way that they start coming up with bills on women on their own without the assistance of civil society organisations.”
The seminar was addressed by Mehnaz Raffi, MPA Faiza Malik, Women Development Department Secretary Irum Bukhari, Aurat Foundation CEO Naeem Mirza and Nasreen Zehra, the resident director of Aurat Foundation.