KARACHI: Speakers at a seminar on Monday appreciated the Sindh government’s efforts in getting pro-women legislation passed from the provincial legislature. However, they asked the relevant authorities to remove bottlenecks that had halted implementation of several such laws.

The Civil Society Support Programme [CSSP] in collaboration with the Sindh Ministry of Human Rights organised a policy dialogue on the status of pro-women laws, implementation and challenges, which was a part of the ongoing 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence.

Veerji Kolhi, special assistant to the chief minister on human rights, said Sindh was the only province that had passed the Hindu Marriage Act to protect the marital right of the Hindu community. He added that until half of the country’s population represented by women and girls lived free from fear, violence and insecurity, “we cannot truly say we live in a fair and equal world”.

He said the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2013 was meant to provide relief to victims of domestic violence.

The law was passed in March 2013 in the wake of a long struggle by women’s rights activists.

“The government is trying its best to implement all the pro-women laws with true spirit. But it will take time because so many stakeholders have to play proactive role in implementation,” it was observed.

Anis Haroon, a rights defender, said the legislation vis-a-vis pro-women laws was a positive step of the Sindh government after the 18th Amendment was passed.

She said members of the Sindh Assembly played a proactive role. “At least you can shake up the members and ask them what is happening and why they are not doing something. Pakistan, particularly Sindh, has passed several laws and policies against various forms of violence. But the challenges remain in implementing these measures.”

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s provincial legislator Mangla Sharma said many women still had no access to free or affordable essential services in sectors such as health, police, justice and social support to ensure safety of women and child protection.

“Not enough has been done to prevent violence, which is a challenging task, yet an effective way to eliminate violence in a sustainable way is the need of the hour.”

She added that all the stakeholders, including the police and the judiciary, should be part of every consultation and sensitisation campaign.

Babar Qadeer, additional home secretary, said the home department had played a key role in the implementation of pro-women laws in Sindh, but challenges were still huge and grave.

“Child marriages are still a universal reality that exists in all societies regardless of socio-economic status, culture or other forms of diversity. The provincial government has taken decisive actions in addressing the structural and systemic failures of the criminal justice system,” he said.

Seema Nazreen, a deputy director on social welfare, said violence against women was not just an issue that involved women as it affected everyone and acted as a barrier “in our country’s development and social growth”.

She added that such violations of human rights must be eliminated at once; and a change could be achieved “by changing our own mindsets”.

Wahid Sangrasi and Kashif Bajeer of the CSSP briefed on their organisation’s campaign on 16 Days of Activism.

Delegates from Mirpurkhas, Umerkot and Thar districts participated in the event.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2019