LAHORE: Human rights activists have expressed reservations over the Punjab government’s much hyped and well advertised initiatives regarding women empowerment and ending violence against them.
The convener of Mumkin Alliance Punjab Shazia Shaheen told News Lens Pakistan, “Cluster of civil society organizations working to end violence against women welcomed the Fair Representation Act 2014 passed by the government on March 8, 2014 to ensure women’s participation in decision making, amendment in the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929, the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939, the West Pakistan Family Court Act 1964 and the Dowry and Bridal Gifts (Restriction) Act 1976.”
But she said, “These laws exist on papers only and no practical steps have been taken till yet. The Harassment in Workplace Act has not been implemented in most of organizations. Formation of a three-member committee and display of code of conduct in all offices is nowhere.”
Shazia further said, “The women constitute 50 percent of the total population of Pakistan but they do not have active participation in political, economic and public spheres due to flawed policies of the Punjab government. For that very reason, Pakistan is lagging behind at international front.”
“The Punjab government still has not passed long-awaited Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Bill that shows how much the government is serious about ending violence against women,” she said. She added, “Shahbaz Sharif led Punjab government has failed to announce policies for improving the maternal mortality rate and women’s literacy rate.”
Executive Director of NGO HomeNet Pakistan Ume Laila Azhar while talking to News Lens Pakistan said the government has not passed legislations for women protection and prevention of domestic violence. “Shahbaz Sharif had announced Women Crises and Rehabilitation help desks at the district level and a 24/7 toll free help line which has not been established till now.”
She further said a policy for home-based workers, covering strategies, plans and programs for their protection and legislation over the matter has been delayed by the Punjab government because a huge amount of budget is required for the social protection of women.
Speaking to News Lens Pakistan, Salman Abid, Regional Head of NGO Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO), said the government should do not lose ground and should show strong commitment over its words. “The government should launch awareness campaigns so that women can take benefit of its initiatives,” he said while talking to News Lens Pakistan.
The Executive Director of NGO Women in Struggle for Empowerment Bushra Kahliq while talking to News Lens Pakistan said exemplary punishment should be awarded to the culprits involved in offences against women and that should be clearly mentioned and implemented in letter and spirit of the laws.
She further said that that the Fair Representation of Women Bill 2014 only targeted privileged and educated women by increasing their representation in statutory organizations, public sector companies, syndicates and special purpose task force committees. But, the Bill gives nothing to women from under privileged and oppressed classes which are in the majority in our society”.
During a telephonic interview with News Lens Pakistan, Punjab government spokesperson Zaeem Qadri claimed that steps taken by the provincial government have not been taken in the history of the country. “Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is serious in empowering women of Punjab and practical steps are being taken to implement his vision,” he said.
“When his attention was drawn to the fact that implementation on women-related initiatives was low or almost zero, he said laws would be gradually implemented for women empowerment and the government has zero-tolerance policy for violence against women,” he added.