“Are we moving forward: Review of Legal and Political Framework”

Round table meeting

Heinrich Böll Stiftung and National Commission on the Status of Women jointly organized one day round table meeting on 12th April 2013, where more than 22 eminent women from civil society, women organizations, gender experts, media, EU representatives and government have participated and actively took part in the discussion.

Friday 12th of April, 2013 

Heinrich Böll Stiftung (HBS) and National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) jointly organized this one day round table meeting where more than 22 eminent women from women organizations, civil society, police, gender experts, media, EU  and government bodies, including two from Lahore and one from Peshawar, participated and actively took part in the discussion.

The objective of this round table was three fold:

  • Firstly to review various bills passed such as domestic violence, acid throwing and sexual harassment at the work place etc, in relation to women from 2008-013 to identify the gaps in implementation of these legislations.
  • Secondly to examine manifestos of different political parties regarding women’s rights and development and lastly to review/analyze civil society organizations’ strategies and role in advocating for the passage of proposed bills.
  • Thirdly to develop strategies for ensuring successful adoption of pending bills and future legislation with reference to commitments made in election manifestos.

Ms. Saima Jasam, who was moderating the meeting, shared the agenda. Since last 20 years HBS always motivated, supported and encouraged women organizations to work on these issues, therefore, we hope that all of you will share your experiences/views, though it is not a pre planned strategic round table, she said.

Ms. Britta Petersen, country director of HBS welcomed to all participants and said that she is looking forward to this round table meeting which would be able to draw some outline for future lobbying and following up these issues for further steps and it is right time to see what government will take steps towards women’s participation in their manifestos. However, HBS has moved from Lahore to Islamabad and as a beginning this round table and our space would be a good opportunity for civil society to work together on these issues.

All participants introduced themselves.

Ms. Kulsoom Monica, Presented of 20 years work of HBS in relation to support women organizations for women empowerment.

Justice ( R ) Nasira Javed Iqbal shed light on Laws passed on women’s issues and their operationalisation (2008-13)“. She said that it was encouraging to see that after a long period of apathy of proper legislations. 7 pro-active legislations have been taken place by the previous government rather than any orders issued by the any dictator. On the other hand 23 acts have been changed in 18th amendment related to women issues but no woman was the member of that committee who can speak on this subject and we never got any reply from them on women issues. National Commission on the Status of Women act has become as a proper commission in 2012 though it is too late but it is encouraging sign that first time they will have a wider power and autonomy instead of dummy institution as it was in earlier years.

Women caucus has been established and had their hand to forward women issues, even though we protested against on the selection of women parliamentarians.

Protection against harassment of women at workplace act came in to two forms one who are dealing as an act and the other one are dealing with Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and Pakistan penal court (PPC). Act of women harassment at workplace always kept by the suppressed man, who does not want to implement and it still not up to standard level. It was observed that multinational companies and organizations formed committees and adopted it but local companies/factories did not pay attention to this act as they should, even the inspection officers are hesitating to talk about it. Act itself is quite impressive but practically it is not working on grounds. Anti Acid throw act has been passed in 2010 but practically it is not implementable even though punishment is very strong (at least 14 year or life time imprisonment/ one million fine). Still it is difficult to catch the culprit.

The heritance right bill, wata sata or sawara marriages were also addressed but still need to be implemented. Domestic violence bill (unfinished) has passed but still in pending.

Ms. Bushra Gohar  said that they passed many bills and many Political parties were willing to compromise with the religion parties but Molana Fazul-ur-Rehman was resisting and uncomfortable regarding domestic violence bill, though Nilofar Bukhtiar already has taken bill into National Assembly for approval.  There has to be a role of Prime Minister who he is not playing, properly. We need a bigger engagement of the parliament for woman issues which shouldn’t rely on the prime minister. We have to establish the process at a regional level. We need people/politicians who understand the woman related issues. Punjab has taken very positive and good steps towards issuing the tickets to women parliamentarians but KP is careful in giving tickets to women. Civil society has to build a pressure on government.

Other participants shared problems which they have faced during drafting the bills and entire process of passing them out. They also informed to that entire how bills proceed at National Assembly and in senate. If bill has forward to senate and at the mean time NA dissolved then bill would be collapses but if it is organized by senate and NA is dissolved then it doesn’t effect and bill will move to standing committee.

Ms. Tahira Abdullah  gave analytical review of Political Parties manifestos in relation to women’s rights”. She highlighted silent features of the manifestos and divided her comparison into two categories one subject wise, the second content wise. She also raised a few questions before the participants related to women issues like whether there was any section for special girls (those with disabilities?)The extent to which women are mentioned? Is there a separate chapter/section on women issues? If yes, how was it handled? How many women were involved in the development of the manifestos or were in the executive committee and other policy forums? How many women got tickets for directly elected seats? Whether girls are mentioned in the manifestos or not and in what manner? Have they affirmative focus on quota system for women/girls? How many women have been elected for general seats or reserved seats? Who, how and what process to formulate manifestos?

Following points of each party’s manifesto shared:

Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz Sharif (PML-N):  5 women out of 33 members of the manifestos were involved in development. They all are strong women. Eradication of poverty and rights of peasants is mentioned. They talked about peasants but their title page shows army, Japanese train, four men and latest technology and on the back children in local dresses. Women are missing in economy section.

Awami National Party (ANP):  women were mentioned in social, women rights section, legal but, inadequately. They only mentioned word “terror network” instead of talibnization or terrorism and they have not mentioned Malalai Yousef Zai. Bombing on girls school is not mentioned.

Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML_Q): They mentioned and encouraged girl’s education but not adequately.

Pakistan Muslim League Functional (PML-F): 3 women out of 23 members who drafted manifestos. They talked about women and girls education and talked about common man and they wrote it in different local languages.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP): women are involved in the mainstream and progressive and right based approach, but disappointment is that every single page is praising income support program for social safety of women in the shape of 1000 rupees per month (Benazir Income Support Program). They talked about talibanization, terrorism and deaths of Sulman Taseer, Shabaz Bhatti and Malalai Yousuf Zai. They talked about home based workers.

Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI): They used utilitarian and instrumentalist to write their manifesto, but no ideology, no vision and even not mentioned agricultural, economic, social or women rights.

Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI): there were no major changes since last 32 years but they separated women section in manifestos.

Muthida Qumi Movement (MQM): They talked about feudalism and mentioned women section (gender mainstream) but a language is very inappropriate and badly written.

Ms. Aqsa Khan  briefly talked about “Implementation of Sexual Harassment Bill and Code of conduct” . The Prime Minister Established the National Implementation Watch Committee (NIWC) from the Platform of National Commission on  the Status of Women on May 10th 2010. The NIWC Coordinated and shared information on all other implementation efforts done by public and private sectors, AASHA and other Members ,Prime Minister’s Secretariat Issued A Notification to   All Government Bodies for Compliance with the Act March 2010.  Cabinet Secretariat Notified All Regulatory Bodies to Comply with the Law and Instructed the Organizations Regulated by the them to comply July 2010. A large number of organizations at the national, provincial and district levels trained on the laws and on implementation. Over 3000 Committees formed in the Private and Government sectors at Federal and Provincial levels. Cases have been filed under both laws and decisions have been implemented-Some known cases are Punjab University, Quaid-i-Azam University etc.

She explained the strategy in steps, to implement this law at institutions/organizations level. Firstly,Management the organization/institution should read and understand the Code of Conduct. Secondly, Management should organize a meeting before taking a decision to officially incorporate the code in the organization’s HR policies. Thirdly, Management should appoint a three-member standing Inquiry Committee to handle any complaints of sexual harassment and at least one member should be a woman. Fourthly, management should also identify a competent authority in their organization, if not already identified. Fifthly, management will notify all employees of incorporating  the Code of Conduct in their HR policies, the names, contact information of the three committee members, instructions of approaching any of the Committee member in case of a sexual harassment complaint. Six, Management should also post this notification and the full text of the code on a notice board or any common area in a language understandable by the employees.

Ms. Khan added that at district level they have developed Strategy to  engage the top leadership, coordinators, executive health officers, education officers, social welfare officers, police officers to organize one to one meeting with them and have introduced laws to develop mechanism to implement these laws.

Ms. Khan pointed out that they, as members of Implementation Watch Committee have also organized awareness raising campaigns with and for community and working women and trainings for relevant departments and inquiry committees.

Ms. Khan emphasized that still there are some gaps that needs to be filled such as patriarchal mindsets, who think that women invite men to harass her, most charges are false, women feel fear to file complaint due to perpetrators who use political influence/threats etc. She also suggested that it is prime need for Establishing the Provincial Ombudsperson's office in Sindh, KPK and Baluchistant and it should be extended in Gligit/Baltistan and AJK. We need to focus more on Implementation at District Levels,  Media and the Military Institutes those are far behind in implementing the laws.

In the wide ranging discussions following from the presentations all participants focused on and agreed upon the need for more human rights bodies focusing on woman issues and effectively tackling extremist radicalization. However it was also added that we should avoid mushroom think tanks.  Universities should be encouraged to develop mechanisms to creatively and critically engage students. The Code of conduct (Harassment Act) should be translated into other local languages so that common people can understand it. NCSW should pick up few high profile cases to protect women rights.  They also highlighted that some companies/institutions are not taking serious steps to implement the Harassment act, such as PIA (Pakistan International Airline) who formed committee or a planning commission but have not implemented it. Participants emphasized the needs for the media to be sensitized, as it often ends up in spoiling the case. Some of them were of the opinion that recently enacted laws are playing a role in preventing by giving the option to women to go to courts but  lots of problems still exists in society which needs to be addressed , monitoring and strengthening of  the system should be a priority.

Ms. Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson of NCSW concluded the meeting. She emphasized that education, as mandated under the Constitution is key for women’s development. Looking at the way forward, she noted that manifestos were reviewed to direct our lobbying and advocacy towards making the new government and legislators accountable on their promises. She said that we need to sharpen our advocacy and lobbying skills. Prior to that we must identify our challenges at this point and time, such as the persistent discriminatory laws or gaps in honor killing legislation etc. At the same time, civil society engagement and mobilization is essential. We should be ready with our homework by time new assemblies are in place. Our goal is to change the biased institutional culture through gender sensitization of the public as well as politicians about our needs, our problems and communicate the urgency of achieving women’s rights. The need is for change mindsets of both women and men so that women are able to stand up for their rights and to fight against their oppression.

Khawar Mumtaz said that the consultation has helped her in refining the NCSW agenda for immediate and medium term action and benefit from this meeting. For future advocacy we need to have a comparative template of party manifestos (as Shirkat Gah developed after the last elections) she requested to Ms. Farida Shaheed, ED Shirkat Gah for a similar exercise for 2013 elections and Ms. Farida shaheed said she would look into this and confirm. Implementation Watch Committee’s work will be resumed in coordination with organizations/individuals who were leading it earlier. Get ready for taking forward the impending and lapsed bills.

She thanked all participants for their rich contribution towards preparing for the post- election period and maintaining the momentum that had developed during the last legislative period. She also thanked HBS for hosting the meeting and acknowledged its active role in bringing civil society, NCSW, women politicians and policy makers to the table together. She suggested that HBS should organize another round table after the elections with politicians to review future policies on women rights with reference to their manifestos.