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LAHORE: The Punjab Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) has rejected the Council of Islamic Ideology’s (CII) proposed ‘model’ bill for the “protection of women” and condemned it as unconstitutional, illegal and in complete violation of fundamental human rights.

The CII’s proposal contravened fundamental rights of women enshrined in the Constitution and violated international laws and treaties Pakistan signed and was bound by, said the PCSW in a statement on Monday.

“In the light of Article 25 of the Constitution that upholds equality of all citizens before the law, the proposed bill adds no value to the rights of women,” the statement said.

The CII bill contains some 163 recommendations addressing issues of property, marriage and motherhood, besides crimes (including violence) committed against women. It also proposes steps like allowing men to “lightly beat their wives” and banning co-education past the primary level, that sparked a controversy.

All the rights that the CII claims to grant women under its “model” bill are already enshrined in the laws, the PCSW argues.

It ridicules the CII advice of getting codified in law that “women will not be permitted to receive foreign officials and state guests” and urged all concerned citizens and government bodies to reject the bill as unconstitutional and redundant for it not only impinges on the women’s rights but also reverses the rights gained over a century through a process of evolution of fundamental rights and freedoms.

The CII’s draft bill reduces to nothing the rigorous efforts made by the government to protect the rights of women and it treats them as legal minors and property of men by prescribing that they need to be instructed in all matters of life, the commission says.

Criticising CII recommendations for women on co-education, breastfeeding, ban on formula milk, use of contraception, criminalising abortion after 120 days, barring women from labour-intensive work and military combat, the PCSW says women all over the world have excelled in every walk of life.

From accomplishing the most physically challenging of tasks to running governments and big corporations, there is nothing that women have not been able to accomplish, it says, adding Pakistan is among one of the few nations in the world which has had a female head of the state.

“The CII appears to have forgotten the roles played by eminent women such as Ms Fatima Jinnah, Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan, Ms Maleeha Lodhi and current ministers Ms Saira Tarar, Ms Anushay Rahman and Ms Hameeda Waheed-ud Din. CII’s position would be in all respects a huge step back from the progress that has been made to date.”

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2016