The Punjab Assembly passed The Punjab Commission on the Status of Women Bill 2013 on Wednesday.
According to the bill, the commission aims at empowering women, expanding opportunities for their socio-economic development and eliminating all forms of discrimination against them.
Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan presided over the session. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was present during Wednesday’s proceedings. The treasury benches defeated the nine amendments to the bill moved by opposition members and passed the bill with a majority.
Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan said it would take a lot more than legislation to empower women. He said the province would celebrate Women’s Empowerment Day on March 8. He said the chief minister had constituted a committee a few weeks ago to identify areas such as inheritance laws which required amendments. He said that government would call an assembly session on Women’s Empowerment Day. He said and members would be briefed on laws and articles of Constitution that empower women. He invited all female members to join him in the cafeteria on Thursday to devise a strategy for the observance of the Women’s Empowerment Day.
Law and Parliamentary Affairs Director Syed Mohsin Abbas told The Express Tribune that under the bill all women related issues would be discussed at the commission on the status of women. He said earlier no such platform had been available at the provincial level.
The commission on the status of women will consist of a woman chairperson with 15 years of experience in women’s issues, female members from each division of the Punjab, a female member from a minority group, secretaries of Law, Finance, Planning and Development, Home and Women’s Development Departments. The government will appoint the chairperson and members on the search committee’s recommendations.
According to the bill, the commission will examine the policy programmes and other measures taken by the government for gender equality, empowerment of women, their representation and political participation. It will also assess implementation and make suitable recommendations to the concerned authorities.
It will review laws affecting the status and rights of women in the Punjab, and suggest amendments or new legislation to eliminate discrimination in accordance with the constitution and international covenants. It will also sponsor research to maintain a database on gender issues for provincial policy.
The commission will inquire into the violation of women’s rights, and exercise powers through civil courts under the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 to inspect any jail where women or girls are kept. The commission aims to lobby for coalition building and networking to facilitate women’s participation in all spheres.
The commission will hold at least four meetings in a year. The commission will appoint an executive committee as well. A fund for the commission will also be set up. The fund shall consist of grants in aid made by the government, donations, and income through investment by the commission.
The speaker adjourned the session till Thursday morning.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2014.