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The Express Tribune

Published Date: Feb 17, 2014

Legislative agenda: Women protection package set for March 8 launch

"Pakistan is the third most dangerous country for women. The
Punjab has the highest number of cases of domestic violence. They are
increasing at the rate of 10 per cent annually," said MPA Dr Nausheen Hamid
said on Sunday.

She was addressing the launching ceremony of Women’s
Legislative Agenda: Current Status and the Way Forward. The event was organised
by AAWAZ Voice and Accountability Programme and Aurat Foundation.

AAWAZ is a five-year accountability programme funded by the
Department for International Development operating in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and
the Punjab.

The project is implemented through five NGOs; the Aurat Foundation,
the SPO, The South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK), the Sungi Development
Foundation and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

Hamid said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had tabled a
bill in the Punjab Assembly to protect women against domestic violence on
January 17. She said Pakistan Penal Code’s (PPC) Section 337 protected women
from domestic violence but had not been enforced.

"We need separate legislation for women…the existing laws do
not [specifically] protect women. Most women do not speak up against domestic
violence because people consider it to be a family matter which can be resolved
behind closed doors," she said.

Hamid said the government needed to take the issue of
domestic violence seriously and impose strict penalties on those who subjected
women to violence. “Often families turn against their women. We need laws to
protect women from their own families,” she said. She said a mechanism should
be available for women besides police stations and FIRs.

Minister for Population Welfare Begum Zakia Shahnawaz said
the government took legislation to protect women very seriously. She said
several committees had been constituted to draft laws in this regard.

Shahnawaz said the government would consider the
recommendations mentioned in the Women Legislative Agenda. She said the chief
minister would announce a comprehensive package for women on March 8.

Women Development Department Secretary Irum Bukhari
highlighted various initiatives taken by the government to protect women. She
said the issue of child marriage would also be addressed in the March 8
package. She said women’s rights in property disputes and acid attack cases
would be given priority in the legislation.

Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) regional head
Salman Abid said that along with legislation, the government should also devise
a mechanism for implementation of laws.

Abid criticised the current mechanism system to address
women’s issues and said, “The monitoring system has loopholes.  It is
important to devise a new monitoring system taking all stakeholders on board.”

Working Women Foundation Executive Director Aima Mahmood
said, "We need to train female parliamentarians in a way that they start coming
up with bills on women on their own without the assistance of civil society
organisations."

The seminar was addressed by Mehnaz Raffi, MPA Faiza Malik,
Women Development Department Secretary  Irum Bukhari, Aurat Foundation CEO
Naeem Mirza  and Nasreen Zehra, the resident director of Aurat Foundation.