“Passing laws is just the first step. It is of no use until it is implemented properly,” Valerie Khan, the Acid Survivors Foundation chairperson said on Thursday.
Khan was referring to the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill 2010 while addressing a seminar organised by Mumkin Alliance, an umbrella organisation of 16 bodies working towards elimination of violence against women.
The seminar, organised in collaboration with South Asia Partnership-Pakistan, aimed at discussing gender sensitive legislation against violence against women (VAW) in Lahore.
Begum Zakia Shahnawaz, advisor to chief minister, assured the participants of government’s commitment towards making suitable laws. She said the primary bill was the Domestic Violence against Women Bill.
There appeared to be consensus among the participants on the significance of local bodies to ensuring implementation at the grassroots level.
Providing a mechanism for implementation of the legislation was the biggest challenge in fighting the menace, they said.
Police behaviour and social indifference towards violence against women were also mentioned as obstacles.
“Sometimes an implementation mechanism is not clearly determined during legislation,” said Salman Abid, regional director of the Strengthening Participatory Organisation. He said laws had been regularly improving but wrong social attitudes remained entrenched. “The ‘woman question’ needs to be taken up as a national cause.”
The participants welcomed greater representation in parliament and blamed lack of support at the grassroots level as a hurdle.
“The presence of women parliamentarians has been a driving force behind gender-sensitive legislation,” said Mumtaz Mughal of the Aurat Foundation, citing research by her organisation. “However, following devolution [of the subject] to provinces, there have been delays in creating gender-sensitivity at relevant departments.”
Mughal said there had been inordinate delays in the passage of a bill on domestic violence in Punjab. The bill has drafted and tabled in the Punjab Assembly.
“The bill will protect vulnerable individuals, regardless of gender,” she said.
“The Punjab government should appoint a woman provincial ombudsman authorised to receive complaints on violence against women,” suggested Justice (retired) Nasira Iqbal.
“Men have to help create a space where the debate for realising women’s rights and equality can be generated,” said Bushra Khaliq of the WISE. “A girl faces obstacles from the moment she steps out of her house to acquire an education and throughout her career.”
Violence appears to be acceptable behaviour in Pakistan, said SAP-Pakistan executive director Muhammad Tehseen.
Some of the participants also raised the questions of a lack of awareness about legislation among the activists for women’s rights themselves. Workers from women wings of several political parties participated in the seminar.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2012.
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