MPAs decry delay in formation of commission on status of women

More than two years have passed since governor approved bill to form the commission

Our Correspondent August 18, 2017
Opposition and PPP MPAs unanimously called for the establishment of the commission. PHOTO: COURTESY SPO

KARACHI: Civil society members, lawmakers and female activists decried the government's delaying tactics in the establishment of a provincial commission on the status of women, which could help resolve issues faced by women in the province.

The Sindh Commission on the Status of Women Bill, 2015 was passed by the provincial assembly on April 6, 2015 and was approved by the governor on May 12 that year. According to the bill, the Sindh government was supposed to constitute a commission, to be known as the Sindh Provincial Commission on the Status of Women (SPCSW), to exercise powers conferred upon it and perform functions assigned to it. However, women of the province still await formation of the commission.

A roundtable dialogue was organised on Thursday by the Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO), a rights-based organisation, at Pearl Continental Hotel to discuss hurdles that lie in the way of the establishment of the SPCSW.

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The conference was attended by Sindh Assembly members and civil society representatives. The MPAs included Naheed Begum, chairperson of the standing committee on women development, Naila Muneer and Heer Soho of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Ghazala Siyal, Kulsoom Chandio, and Muhammad Ali Bhutto of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Nusrat Sehar Abbasi of Pakistan Muslim League - Functional (PML-F)  and Sorat Thebo of Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz. Civil society was represented by activist Mahnaz Rehman and former senator Javed Jabbar.

"It is just like where there is a will, there is a way," said Begum, sharing her views on the matter. She added that on the positive side, the Sindh Assembly has adopted many progressive laws but it takes years to implement them in reality.

The MQM MPA added that the government was not aware of the losses it has incurred by not forming the SPCSW and will later realise how effective the commission could have been in addressing the problems faced by women.

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Female representatives in the assembly have always kept their differences aside and have taken steps to bring bills in the assembly that empower women, Begum said, adding that now, female MPAs should work together for the implementation of such laws.

Abbasi agreed with Begum that there are still many issues related to women that need to be resolved and that the commission is a key to do so. "I believe individuals in assemblies and governments are allergic to the word 'women'. Whenever there is something said about women, they say there are other issues more important than that, which is why we keep facing delays in [legislative matters] related to women," added the PML-F MPA.

Abbasi added that not all men have similar a mindset and there are many men who support women's causes and need to be appreciated.

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Chandio agreed with other participants that the delay in the formation of the commission was disappointing. The PPP MPA said she will request Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to look into the matter. She added that if formed, the SPCSW can help in adopting modern and progressive laws for women.

Jabbar, who is also a founding member of the SPO, said no man should deny the contribution of women in his life. "I cannot deny the roles of my mother and wife [in] my career," he said. Jabbar added that despite many hurdles faced by women in Pakistan, the country has produced some great names including Benazir Bhutto and Malala Yousufzai. Jabbar urged the need to empower women who belong to remote areas of the province.

The government's responsibility does not end after passing the law. The real challenge is to ensure that the law is implemented with its true spirit to achieve the goals, said Jabbar.


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