The reaction to alleged disrespect of women in parliament in Pakistan continues. This report covers the reaction of civil society organisations beginning with a statement from the Ending Violence Against Women and Girls (EVAWG) Allianc:
The statement urged general public and civil society activists in particular to raise strong voice against the social mindset which allows men to abuse women at any forum. “Sadly, this has also penetrated in our respected Parliament. Passing sexist remarks, abusing, threatening and torturing women shall not be acceptable anymore. We, the women rights activists and organisations, demand speaker National Assembly and chairman Senate to cancel the memberships of abusers from Upper and Lower House,” said Rabeea Hadi, co-chair of EVAWG Alliance.
The Women’s Parliamentary Caucus (WPC) also took serious notice of the growing disrespect, intolerance and impertinence amongst men and women in the country, especially on media and places of high order that should actually be presenting and promoting role models for the people of Pakistan.
The debate coincides with an increase in so-called 'honour crime' killings.
It is also linked to the negative reaction to pronouncements by the Council on Islamic Ideology (CII) which reinforce violence against women.
Pakistan's Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, from the ruling party Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN), is also Minister for power and water. He is accused of seeking to body shame a female member of the opposition Shireen Mazari. As Mazari interjected in parliament to protest against power outages during the religious month of Ramadan, Asif said, ‘Someone make this tractor trolley keep quiet,’. He also said, ‘Make her voice more feminine.
Pakistani women react strongly to recommendations made by the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) in its 'Model Women's Protection Bill':
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has strongly criticized the CII's proposal, stating, “As much as the HRCP wanted not to dignify with any comment the ridiculous CII recommendations regarding ‘light beating’ of women, the commission thinks it is imperative that every right-respecting person must condemn such counsel unreservedly. The irony of calling the measures women protection should not be lost on anyone.” The HRCP isn't the only group that's condemned the draft legislation. Pakistanis throughout the country have reacted with shock, anger, and even humour, writing online with the hashtag “#TryBeatingMeLightly.”
A workshop for politicians in Pakistan has highlighted the desperate circumstances for women in marginalised employment.
The parliamentarians indicated that they learned more about the issues facing women. We wonder how different it would be if half the parliament were women.
Islamabad - A two-day multi-stakeholder dialogue on “Women in the Informal Economy, Recognising the Invisible Hands” with a diverse group of parliamentarians concluded yesterday.
The main objective of the activity was to sensitise and engage the public representatives in the legislature in a way that they become custodians of the rights of the informal workforce.
It was also an opportunity to review the performance of Women’s Parliamentary Caucus regarding its efforts for the betterment of women workers in the informal sector, especially the domestic workers.
The participants also explored the legislative and non-legislative avenues to work for the rights of the informal workforce and discussed how parliamentarians can make a difference in this context.
Munawar Sultana, head of the GE4DE project gave a presentation on the project and explained that in the context of decent work, gender equality embraces equality of opportunity and treatment, equality of remuneration and access to safe and healthy working environments, equality in association and collective bargaining, equality in obtaining meaningful career development opportunities, maternity protection, and a balance between work and home life that is fair to both men and women.
Munawar said that around 73 per cent of Pakistani workforce is employed in the informal economy, growing part of which is women who are engaged in low-paid and low-status with little or no growth at all.
The home-based workers and the domestic workers, she said, are two of the most underprivileged groups of informal sector workers that had continued to suffer in the absence of elaborate policies concerning them.
The parliamentarians committed that they will make all-out efforts to trigger and strengthen the process that leads to devising of effective strategies, drafting of national laws/policies with reference to ILO’s Convention 100 (equal wages for the work of equal value) and Convention 111 (against discrimination in employment & occupation); Convention 177 (home-based work) and Convention 189 (for domestic workers) leading to improvement in the working conditions for women.
The parliamentarians expressed that following the consultation, they have a better understanding of the issues faced by women in the informal economy and will get these voiced and recognised in the Parliament in the form of questions, bills, legislative framework etc.
Published in The Nation newspaper on 29-May-2016
Commentators in Pakistan criticise the CII proposals that attack protections for the rights of women:
While civil society members and woman representatives rejected the recommendations of the Council of Islamic Ideology on a new women protection bill, legal experts say only parliament has the right to legislate and there was no legal status of the proposals presented by the CII.
Supreme Court Bar Association President Barrister Ali Zafar said on Thursday that CII’s proposals about ‘slight’ beating of women, a ban on co-education, restraining women from taking part in military combat and interacting with males, preventing female nurses from taking care of male patients and banning women from working in ads, are only the opinion of the CII members. He said these proposals are not binding on parliament, which is authorised to make any laws.
From Obaid Abbasi in the Express Tribune, Pakistan:
The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has proposed its own women protection bill, recommending ‘a light beating’ for the wife if she defies the husband.
The 20-member CII is a constitutional body which gives recommendations to parliament regarding Islamic laws. However, parliament is not bound to consider its recommendations.
The bill was drafted after the CII rejected Punjab’s controversial Protection of Women against Violence Act (PPWA) 2015 terming it un-Islamic. The CII will now forward its proposed bill to the Punjab Assembly.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday said it would take the parliamentarians and donor agencies on board to increase women participation in electoral process. ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob said the commission wanted greater political participation of women.
An obstacle to improving the participation of women in elections was that around one million women were without identity cards and therefore could not register to vote.