ISLAMABAD, Dec 28: Speakers on Wednesday stressed the need for strict enforcement of recently-enacted legislation on women’s rights.

They also urged the civil society to come forward and play its role in changing the mindset in this regard.

These views were expressed at a national consultation on ‘Gender-based legislation and issues of implementation’ organised by Aurat Foundation here.

Senator Nilofar Bakhtiar, MPAs from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Saqibullah Chamkani and Musarrat Safi, Assistant Inspector General (Operations) Sultan Azam Taimuri, Justice (retired) Shaiq Usmani, Member Provincial Commission on the Status of Women Farzana Ali and Executive Director Ethno Media Samar Minallah were the main speakers. Justice (retired) Shaiq Usmani said: “Our courts, particularly the lower courts still have strong prejudices against women which surely influence their proceedings in all the cases involving women, family affairs and inheritance.”

Senator Nilofar Bakhtiar said the civil society should form pressure groups to press the government to implement women rights laws. She proposed formation of a ‘women parliamentarian commission for implementation’ which shall have powers to summon any concerned institution.

Advocate Humaira Masihuddin said in case of cognizable offence, law considers severity of a crime so high that police can act without warrants and arrest the accused.

MPA Saqib Ullah Chamkani said the problem is not the lacunas present in the law, but it is the mindset – the mindset of implementing agencies like judiciary and law enforcement agencies. He also pointed to the ever increasing gap between legislators, implementers and people or beneficiaries of the justice systems as main hurdle in delivery of justice to the people, particularly in cases of women’s rights.

MPA Musarrat Safi said women legislators were performing their role of introducing gender-sensitive legislation, however, next is the role of implementation agencies and the civil society.

Nasreen Azhar, member National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), said the recently made acts would also be taken to the provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and southern Punjab.

Valarie Khan, Chairperson, Acid Survivors Foundation, said apart from the awareness, a perfect legislation was very much required. She also stressed the need to place a better accountability mechanism to eradicate violence against women.

Executive Director Ethno Media Samar Minallah presented some video clips from her documentaries where women were telling their stories of how they were given away in swara and vani. She said apart from legislation on the issue and its implementation, a change in mindset is very much required, and this is where civil society has an important role.

Qazi Jamilur Rehman, DIG Police, Malakand, emphasised the need for capacity building of police department. He said the police department in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has recently initiated notable steps for training and capacity building of the department to facilitate the officials in implementing the women-specific laws.

Mohammad Salim Khattak from National Police Academy said that police officials from rural area have gender discriminatory behaviour and they performed their duties with such prejudices.

Helena Saeed, Director Projects, National Police Academy, said that women have specific needs but these specific needs of working women are not addressed.  “The women working in police department are not provided enabling environment,” she said.

Human rights activist Tahira Abdullah suggested that in order to avoid the pressure from the influential, the police department should get the support of civil society organisations. Sultan Azam Taimuri, Assistant Inspector General (Operations) said that Pakistan inherited the Police Act of 1861 from British policies in Indian-subcontinent, which remained intact till this day without even the slightest change.

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