GSP Plus status forces govt to give priority to rights

Updated July 17, 2014


A comprehensive new policy to deal with violence against women and minors is also in the final stages. — File photo
A comprehensive new policy to deal with violence against women and minors is also in the final stages. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: Not wanting to give up its hard-earned GSP Plus status, the government is planning to set up Treaty Implementation Cells (TICs) in all provinces and to put in place a series of laws that seek to protect minorities, women, children and labourers as well as curtailing domestic violence.

The enforcement of these laws is a prerequisite to ensure that Pakistan maintains its GSP Plus status, which allows the country to enjoy trade benefits with the European Union (EU).

GSP-Plus and labour compliance

A senior government official told Dawn that in the wake of the devolution of powers to the provinces, several human rights conventions needed implementation at the grass-roots level. “In view of this, the prime minister has asked that provincial governments set up TICs,” the official said.

The prime minister has also ordered that a high-powered committee, to be headed by the PM’s Special Assistant Khawaja Zaheer Ahmad, be set up to ensure that the TICs do their job.

The prime minister was informed that about 30 major laws or initiatives had been taken by respective federal and provincial governments over the past few years to meet international standards on human rights. These are required by the EU to continue the GSP Plus facility, but another 14 laws or amendments would have to be made before October this year, when a review will decide whether or not Pakistan will continue to receive the GSP Plus facility.

Treaty implementation cells in provinces to ensure enforcement of all EU requirements

The Domestic Violence (Prevention And Protection) Bill 2014 is in the final stages of development. The bill seeks to institutionalise measures that prevent and protect women, children and any other vulnerable individual from domestic violence.

Currently, Pakistan does not have a mechanism whereby Hindu marriages can be registered. This means that Hindu women cannot prove their marital status and thus are denied legal rights such as inheritance from a deceased husband, re-marriage, divorce, separation or adoption.

The draft Hindu Marriage Bill 2014 seeks to prescribe a registration mechanism and fixes a penalty if its provisions are violated. This will also help curtail forced marriages.

The drafts of the Christian Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2014 and the Divorce (Amendment) Bill 2014 have been finalised by the law ministry. The minimum age of marriage proposed in both bills is 18 years.

A comprehensive national policy on home-based workers has also been finalised to guide and support the governments of the four provinces as well as Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan in developing their own plans and programmes for the protection and promotion of the rights and benefits of home-based workers, particularly women.

A comprehensive new policy to deal with violence against women and minors is also in the final stages of development.

It highlights include an implementation strategy to address all forms of violence such as marital rape, dowry abuse and murders, partner homicide, psychological abuse, abuse of women with disabilities, forced pregnancy, ‘forced suicide’ or homicide of widows for economic reasons.

The government is also in the process of introducing a model national package focusing on the areas of legislation, protection, economic opportunity, health and education. This is to end all forms of discrimination against women and suggests amendments to inheritance laws, acid throwing and property rights and seeks to ensure the participation of women in all walks of life.

Quotas for women in public sector employment, statutory organisations, public-sector companies and committees will also be ensured under the proposed legislation.

Another bill against torture and custodial deaths has been circulated to the relevant stakeholders for comments. Pakistan signed the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2008, and thereafter ratified it in 2010.

The government also seeks to amend the criminal act. The Amendment Bill 2014 which covers all aspects of child abuse and aims to implement recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to deter child abuse and exploitation and raise minimum age of criminal responsibility from 7 to 12 years.

The new proposals provide for an amendment in Section 82 of the PPC and the insertion of new sections in the PPC i.e. 292A (Exposure to Seduction), 292B (Child Pornography), 292C (Punishment for Child Pornography), 328A (Cruelty to a Child) 369A (Trafficking to Human Being in Particular Internal Trafficking), 377A (Child Abuse) and 377B (Punishment for Child Abuse). A related bill also seeks to set up the National Commission on the Rights of the children.

Another bill on the prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill 2014 is like to be merged with a private bill proposed by Marvi Memon to criminalise any form of corporal punishment against children in formal and non formal educational institutions, child care institutions and in the juvenile justice system.

The Sindh Assembly recently passed the Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill to make education mandatory for children from the ages of five to 16 years. Similar bills are also expected to be introduced in other provinces as well.

A bill is under process in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly to provide protection to the women victims of acid crime while legislation is under way in the Balochistan Assembly to address the issues of harassment of women at the workplace.

Published in Dawn, July 17th , 2014