The Punjab Commission on the Status of Women Bill 2013 was passed by the Punjab Assembly on February 12. The commission aims to empower women, expand opportunities for women’s socio-economic development and end all types of discrimination against them. It is commendable that the Punjab Assembly is finally taking women’s rights seriously. There are many examples of sexist attitude of male parliamentarians towards female parliamentarians. Thus, passing this law is in itself an achievement. Punjabi society, like the rest of Pakistan, follows a patriarchal structure. Bills such as the ‘Status of Women’ should indeed be welcomed but things on the ground will not change unless and until we challenge our society’s patriarchal mindset and work towards an egalitarian society. Gender equality is something that women all across the globe have fought for but in underdeveloped countries like ours, it will take more than just mere laws to achieve it. The government’s duty is not just to pass laws but to ensure that these laws are indeed implemented so as to help achieve the goal of women empowerment.
On the other hand, the government should make sure that these laws should not merely focus on women in urban areas but should actually help women in less developed areas as well. This is not to say that women in cities have it better than those in the villages. Those who think thus are only looking at things from a superficial perspective. There is no doubt that more and more women are getting educated in the urban areas and are thus joining the work force but lest we forget, women in the rural areas work side by side with their male counterparts in the agricultural field. It is precisely because of the patriarchal system that the women folk’s contribution in farming and related fields is overlooked in the rural areas. Empowering women all across the province is the duty of the Punjab government and its real test begins now.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2014.