KARACHI: Women’s rights activists remember Benazir Bhutto for fighting their cause, but three years on from her death, there is a sense that much more could be done.
“The only thing this government has to its credit is the sexual harassment act and a half-baked domestic violence bill which lapsed in the Senate,” said the chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women, Anis Haroon, while talking to The Express Tribune. “We hope that will be passed by March 8 now.”
She and many others came for a candlelight vigil at the Karachi Press Club. A photograph of the late Benazir Bhutto adorned with a garland of roses on a bed of multi-coloured rose petals rested against one of its outer walls to mark her third death anniversary on Monday. Surrounding the picture were women from political and non-political organisations.
“Women in Pakistan should be proud of Benazir Bhutto,” said resident director for the Aurat Foundation, Mahnaz Rahman. “In a country where karo-kari still agressively exists we saw her fight for the cause of women’s liberation from a young age.”
“We need to move away from Zia’s laws,” said a member of the Women’s Action Forum and founding member of Human Rights Commission Pakistan. “It’s like taking one step forward and two steps back.” She said that they had demanded, and continue to, the repeal of the Hudood Ordinance but only some amendments were made. “Still, that gave women some relief and now they want to take that back! We need to stop this parallel system that is expanding in the country. Parliament has the right to debate such issues but it’s high time that the Federal Shariat Court and the Council of Islamic Ideology, responsible for the repression of women, be abolished.” The group of about two dozen women then sat and sang songs and recited verses from Faiz Ahmed Faiz in rememberance of their trailblazer Benazir Bhutto.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2010.