Restrictions holding women back in Pakistan: WB report

Published September 11, 2015
For women, there are no laws guaranteeing equal remuneration for work of equal value, said the report.—AP/File
For women, there are no laws guaranteeing equal remuneration for work of equal value, said the report.—AP/File

ISLAMABAD: Many restrictions hold women back in Pakistan in their quest for economic advancement, says a new World Bank report.

According to ‘Women, Business and the Law 2016’, published every two years, married women in the country need to include their husbands’ name, nationality and address in order to register a business, and they need to do this in the presence of a witness.

For women, there are no laws guaranteeing equal remuneration for work of equal value and no laws mandating non-discrimination based on gender in hiring, said the report which was released by the World Bank on Wednesday.

However, Pakistan has introduced a couple of reforms over the past two years. It set the legal age of marriage for both boys and girls at 18 years and introduced criminal sanctions for men who contract marriage with a minor and anyone who performs, facilitates or permits under-age marriage. The country also introduced a 22 per cent quota for women in local governments, the report mentioned.

According to the report, women in South Asia continue to trail their peers in many other parts of the world, as discriminatory laws thwart their economic advancement. The report examined laws that impede women’s employment and entrepreneurship in 173 countries throughout the world.

The report expands coverage in South Asia from five to eight countries, adding Afghanistan, Bhutan and the Maldives. The region as a whole has been lagging in enacting reforms in areas measured by the report, with only three reforms made in two countries in the past two years.

The report claimed that in nearly 100 countries of the world, women face gender-based job restrictions. Yet, it notes, over the past two years 65 countries carried out 94 reforms increasing economic opportunities for women.

The report also found that laws protecting women from domestic violence were becoming more common around the world, partially in response to growing international efforts and commitments on violence against women. Today, 127 countries have legislation against domestic violence, compared to almost none 25 years ago. Yet, that leaves 46 countries among the ones measured that still do not have this legal protection.

Drawing conclusions, the report said that in 18 countries, husbands could legally prevent their wives from working. Around 46 countries now have laws specifically protecting women from domestic violence.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2015

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