Calls to repeal discriminatory laws on International Women’s Day

ISLAMABAD: On a usual Sunday, most residents of the federal capital like to stay at home especially if it is a rainy day, but on March 8 close to 10 events were held to mark International Women’s Day.

Participants at various events demanded the government to take immediate steps to repeal all laws which discriminate against women including the Hudood Ordinance, Qisas and Diyat and Law of Evidence.

Speakers reiterated the view that since Pakistan’s inception, women have been forced to compromise on their rights. Dictators and politicians alike have contributed to the denial of women’s rights, they said.

At Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) seminar titled ‘Women’s Rights and Issues in Pakistani Literature’ on Sunday, renowned poet and writer Kishwar Naheed said women had been divided into characters of mother, sister, wife and daughter but March 8 reminded us of her identity as a woman.

She said women work more than men but there is a general perception that they cannot do hard work.

“Women played an active role in every field in the past and are still doing so, today. Women played an important role in the Pakistan movement. Bengali women faced violence when East Pakistan separated in 1971,” she said.

“Women also played a role in literature as there are a number of good women writers and poets in Pakistan,” she said.

Punjab Higher Education Commission Chairman Dr Nizamuddin said women’s problems cannot be resolved unless women unite and raise their voice from one platform.

“A sitting minister’s mother once held a protest in Lahore that women don’t need jobs so jobs should be given to men. Women work 18 hours a day and earn less than men if we count the unpaid work they do in the home,” he said.

Dr Nizamuddin said although a competent woman had been appointed as the head of National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW), the commission did not have staff and resources to do research and play its role to resolve the issues of women.

He said Pakistan could not develop without the efforts of 50 per cent of the country’s population.

A writer from Gilgit-Baltistan, Akbar Hussain, said that Mullahs had been changing the mindset and disturbing peace all over the country.

“We have to educate the society to understand that whatever Mullahs say about women is not right,” he said.

A writer, Tahira Ehsas Jatak, who came from Khuzdar, said men should be given awareness to ensure rights of women.

Awami Workers Party (AWP) held an event at Aabpara Community Centre to mark International Women Day.

Speaking on the occasion, AWP Chairman Fanoos Gujjar said Pakistani society was amongst the most patriarchal in the world and while this social order had deep historical roots it had been strengthened over the past few decades by the state, the laws and the law enforcers. All these organs of state victimise rather than protect women.

AWP vice-President Farzana Bari rejected the idea that terrorism could be eliminated through military means, because the state’s military options destroyed thousands of homes and it were women who inevitably faced the brunt of displacement and destruction.

AWP Punjab President Aasim Sajjad said the left and particularly the AWP, was the only political force in Pakistan that did not view women as only a source of votes or mobilisation during rallies, but actually believed in women liberation.

Aurat Foundation, a non-government organisation, held an event at Quaid-i-Aiwan in F-9 Park.

Meanwhile, the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) also celebrated International Women Day on Sunday in the chamber by arranging several events.

PML-N Senator Najma Hameed was the chief guest of the ceremony, while RCCI President Syed Asad Mashadi, former presidents Sheikh Shabbir, Sohail Altaf, Kashif Shabbir, Chairperson RCCI Women Entrepreneur Committee Uzma Salman, educationist Riffat Mushtaq, executive committee members and a large number of women members of the chamber were present on the occasion.

Paintings by women were displayed while women entrepreneurs set up stalls to display their products.

Speaking on the occasion, Senator Najam Hameed said women from the twin cities could benefit from the chamber to promote their business.

RCCI President Syed Asad Mashadi said no nation could progress without women.

The chamber was establishing incubation centre for businesswomen where they can display their products and hold meetings to promote their businesses.

He said the RCCI would provide free consultancy to those women who wanted to start their own business.

At Dhoke Hassu, Sustainable Social Development Organisation (SSDO) organised a function in collaboration with Aman Development Foundation Rawalpindi. Local women attended the event and demanded legislation for women empowerment.

Anusha Sherazi, the SSDO’s programme director, said women empowerment played an important role in strengthening public participation in institutional development.

Syed Kausar Abbas, programme manager of Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI), said the government should immediately legislate to empower women.

He said women could not be ignored in Pakistan and should be given equal opportunities at all levels.

Mohammad Tufail, Chairman of Aman Development Foundation, said the government should announce special initiatives for women to engage them in the process of development of the country.

Published in Dawn March 9th , 2015

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