ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has called for a dialogue on women’s issues and rights in a civilised manner and asked the government to ensure protection of participants of the marches to be taken out in various parts of the country on Sunday (today) as part of the International Women’s Day.
In a video message issued on Saturday, PPP vice president and parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman said Pakistani women were demanding the rights which had already been guaranteed by Islam as well as the constitution of the country.
She said many people were wrongly interpreting a few slogans of the women’s movement, adding the slogans were not intended to invite someone towards vulgarity but rather remind everyone that women’s rights had been enshrined in the constitution and the religion.
The senator said there was a need for an open dialogue with civility on women’s issues among all the stakeholders, including the government, the opposition, activists of the women’s movement and others.
Ms Rehman also called for legislation on key issues, and regretted that her proposed bill on underage marriages had been pending approval in the National Assembly for quite some time now.
Senator says some people are wrongly interpreting a few slogans of women’s movement
Meanwhile, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has said Pakistani women would not be cowed by intimidation and threats from “agents of patriarchy and misogyny”.
In a message on the eve of the International Women’s Day, the PPP chairman said former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was a beacon that had lit the way for women to have agency over their own labour and bodies. “Women will carry forward her struggle and every Pakistani woman will become a Benazir, if she continues to fight for her rights,” he said.
The PPP had always tried to ensure the rights of women, despite the pushback from anti-women and anti-equality parties who believed in patriarchal structures, said Mr Bhutto-Zardari.
“Women and marginalised communities are the real strength of the PPP and the party will fight together with them against those who are plotting to enslave them in the chains of patriarchy,” he said.
The PPP chairman said the people of Pakistan had elected the Muslim world’s first woman prime minister who proceeded to carve out a path for women in the male-dominated state structures.
“From appointing the first female judges of high courts, to establishing dedicated police stations for women, to launching the First Women Bank, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto made sure that she raised the status of all women. It was again the PPP which allotted lands to landless women and passed legislation to extend labour rights to female agriculture workers,” he said.
“Today, lady health workers are serving in every nook and corner of the country and earning a respectful living.”
The PPP leader said the revolutionary social safety initiative called the Benazir Income Support Programme was launched by former president Asif Ali Zardari to fullfil the vision of Benazir Bhutto. The BISP was an internationally-acclaimed programme which was financially supporting the poorest of the poor women in the country, he added.
However, he said, Imran Khan’s government was removing the picture and name of Benazir Bhutto from the BISP cards in an effort to reverse the message of women’s empowerment in Pakistan.
“Small men in big offices would never be able to undo the cracks she made in the walls of patriarchy. Every woman now knows that she too can be Benazir,” he said, pointing out that under the Peoples Poverty Reduction Programme launched at the union council level, 1.5 million women were getting interest-free loans and had started their own small businesses, built their own houses and educated their children.
Former president Zardari in his message said there was a need to follow in the footsteps of Benazir Bhutto so that the conservative groups could be defeated. He said Islam had taught them to respect women and the people who wanted to impose their thoughts and philosophy on the society by force were in fact afraid of human awareness.
Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2020