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Women’s Day: a long way to go

TODAY we are observing International Women’s Day, but sadly the women in Pakistan are still being denied their rights: economic, social, civil and political.

In a society that is strictly tied to its cultural and traditional roots, women are treated more as a commodity than a human being. There have been countless unpleasant incidents of torture inflicted on women daily.

In Sindh alone some 1000 forced marriages take place every year, of which a mere 12 to 15 per cent come to notice. The rest die suffocating under political influence and power of money. The ones presented before courts linger due to fake documents, absent respondents, and missing witnesses. Women are still raped, killed for honour, harrassed at the workplace etc.

Jirga is a parallel judicial system in many rural areas, especially the districts of upper Sindh. Its main victim and targets are poor families and helpless women. The proponents of jirgas are sardars that rules over the fate of helpless women in the presence of DCs, SPs and DIGs though the Sindh High Court banned jirgas in 2004.

According to the latest statistics, women’s literacy in Pakistan stands at 28 per cent, way below the Third World average of 66 per cent. Without literacy what hope do our women have of pulling themselves out of the abyss.

In Pakistan 30,000 women die due to maternal health and 50,000 babies under five years die annually. Because of lack of health and maternal healthcare facilities two-thirds of deliveries take place at home and only one-third in hospitals. We are losing three women an hour in pregnancy-related death.

In Sindh, Pregnancy related deaths annually claim lives of 314 women per 100,000 live births. Women die during pregnancy or within 42 days of termination pregnancy.

We need to ensure that women have access to emergency obstetric care round the clock in Sindh, an obstetric and newborn care in all DHQ and THQ hospitals.

We need to mobilise communities for revolving funds for emergency transport. We need use of available staff (vaccinators, LHVs, community midwives and LHWs) and others.

Exclusive budget reforms for women in development, education health, industrial and welfare sectors, etc., is being practised all over the world. Gender budget defines policies and planning with equal benefits for women and men. The final objective on
the budgeting is to shape budgets so that they actively promote gender equality.

Assemblies have the highest number of women legislators with their coalition partners. However, implementation is a difficult task. The government is trying to overcome hindrances in execution. Legislation is considered a watershed for women rights in the country. There is at least some hope that there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

We all must appreciate the services and vision of Benazir Bhutto by paying tribute to her, as she had always given a high priority to legislation that protected the rights of women.

Sindh MPA, Thatta