While drafting seven women protection laws over the last few years deserves praise, there is a need to integrate guidelines presented by the USAID-funded Gender Equity Programme (GEP) with the government’s legislative framework to better tackle issues related to gender based violence in the country.
Special assistant to the Prime Minister, Shahnaz Wazir Ali, expressed this view at the third meeting of GEP’s national advisory forum on Monday. Ali was the chairperson of the forum. GEP and the government are collaborating in the $40 million programme that is managed by the Aurat Foundation.
“This forum provides a necessary platform to align the programme with the government’s policies and to help brainstorm gender equality strategies in the country,” said Ali.
Civil society organisations, government entities, policy think tanks, academic research and training institutions and professional, business and media associations have received 102 of the 400 grants under the programme so far.
“We have planned to initiate two to three thematic grant cycles to achieve our objectives by 2015,” said GEP chief Simi Kamal. She explained that the programme seeks to facilitate behavioral change in society by enabling women to readily access institutions devoted to solving their problems, and to improve societal attitudes towards women’s rights issues.
While highlighting the commonality of gender based violence in Karachi, Kamal cited a survey done across three colleges which found that “83 per cent of girls who responded acknowledged that they were sexually molested by their kinsmen.”
Kamal also highlighted the work undertaken by GEP to help pass laws that will tackle crimes effectively. “Identification of gaps in existing laws is another important area of our attention,” she said. “We are raising awareness for more vigilant communities through active engagement with civil rights organisations, advocacy groups and the media.”
Dr Masuma Hasan, founding member of Aurat Foundation’s board of governors, said it was sad that clergy in the country have created a brouhaha when it comes to women inheriting their family member’s possessions. “Despite the presence of inheritance laws, the issue remains worrisome as it has remained rooted in tradition for such a long time,” she added. She was supported by minister for women development in Balochistan, Ghazala Gola, who added that “The problem is that people cling to religious entities or clergy that predominantly espouse a patriarchal interpretation of Islam.”
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s women development minister Sitara Ayaz suggested that government clerics could promote themes regarding gender equality during their Friday sermons.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2012.