One more step towards legal rights for women

The impact that a law has on the psyche of abuser, victim and the society is important, especially related to women.

Fouzia Saeed November 16, 2011
Women Parliamentarians have proved that when it comes to higher priorities, politicians can go above party divides. The bill on anti women practices passed by the National Assembly, which prohibits forced marriage, marriage with Quran, restricting women to get their rightful share in inheritance and giving women in exchange for conflict resolution, is a proof of that.

Donya Aziz and Attiya Inayatulla have been working hard on this bill and have been mobilizing support from all parties. Though the bill is signed by eight Parliamentarians of PML (Q) including Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, it is women Parliamentarians that have gone through the struggle of convincing their party members to vote for it.

The bill is a welcome initiative and once it becomes a law can play a significant role in curbing frequent jirga decisions on giving away girls to resolve conflicts. The most important impact of a law is its deterrence power. Of course, people do find ways to dodge laws and law enforcing agencies are still weak but the impact that a law has on the psyche of abuser, victim and the society is important, especially in legislation related to women.

The women’s caucus has been effective in bringing the Parliamentarians together to discuss joint concerns and issues of women’s betterment. This process directly or indirectly has brought the trend of working together on joint agendas. In this case not only does the speaker Fehmida Mirza needs to be acknowledged but active women parliamentarians and those on the executive committee like Bushra Gohar, Nafeesa Shah, Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Jamila and many others including the owner of the bill, Donia Aziz and Attiya Inayatulla.

Another area that is important to note is that private member bills are usually ill fated as these bills mostly get deferred or thrown out. The rate of approval for such bills in the past has been two per cent. It is heartening to see a private member bill getting a unanimous vote from the National Assembly. On the one hand This shows governments support on the issue and that of all the other parties and on the other hand it reflects the hard work of Donya Aziz and others with her who lobbied for the bill for three years.

We are reminded of the fate of the domestic violence bill which got a unanimous vote from the National Assembly and was deferred in the Senate only because of the objection of one Senator. We are very sure this will not happen. Firstly because the government has already shown its commitment in the anti sexual harassment legislation last year and made it clear that they are for progressive legislation for women. Secondly the Prime Minister has already congratulated the women parliamentarians for their work and has appreciated the passage of the bill. Thirdly, the chairman of Senate has made commitments for women’s progressive legislation time and again in public.

Our eyes are set on the Senate as there will be two bills in their court:

1. The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Amendment to Penal Code, 2010 and

2. the Prevention of Anti- Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Bill 2008.

The women of Pakistan expect our senators to come together and pass both these amendments and show their support for   making our society a more humane and just.
Fouzia Saeed A social scientist with a PhD from the University of Minnesota and the author of "Taboo! The Hidden Culture of a Red Light Area."
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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