KARACHI, Feb 9: Speakers at a seminar on Thursday urged the Sindh Assembly to formulate legislation relating to domestic violence soon so that women and children could be given due protection.
Passing a resolution with consensus at the seminar on the Sindh Domestic Violence Bill organised by the Aurat Foundation, they said that after the 18th constitutional amendment the enactment of this law had devolved to the provincial domain and demanded that the Sindh Assembly should do so quickly.
They deplored that though the National Assembly had adopted the bill regarding domestic violence in 2009, the senate did not pass it within the stipulated time owing to which it lapsed. They said in the Sindh Assembly various members had also submitted their bills on the issue, but those were yet to be passed.
Senior Sindh Minister Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq said that those bills were being considered by the government. He said that different government departments, including law, home etc, were vetting the bills after which they would be sent to the chief minister and upon his consent they would be presented in the assembly.
He said that the syllabus was also being reviewed to incorporate gender sensitivity so that children, who internalised the values reflected in their school books, would grow up with a more egalitarian mindset about gender issues. Pointing out that education was the first step in creating awareness among women of their rights, he said the government was also providing Rs3,600 as yearly scholarship to girl students of 45 talukas during their studies from class VI to X, subject to 75 to 80 per cent attendance. As a result, he stated, girls’ enrolment in secondary school had increased by 10 per cent.
He urged civil society organisations working on gender issues to focus, besides women, on men who, in many cases, were guilty of depriving women of their rights. Only when they became sensitised in this respect would the situation improve, he added.
Sindh Women Development Minister Tauqeer Fatima Bhutto said that many domestic violence bills had been submitted to the Sindh Assembly and were being studied by different government bodies. She said that she was trying to persuade the members who had submitted the bills to sit together and extract the points common to them and draft a comprehensive bill that could be submitted to and passed by the assembly. She also urged the women to treat their children, regardless of sex, equally so that they grew up to be better human beings.
MQM MPA Bilquis Mukhtar said gender discrimination was rampant in society across the board and that even women MPAs were discriminated against with male MPAs being given more importance. She also said that while victimisation of women by men was common, women also victimised other women. She cited the example of mothers-in-law who, with their daughters, in many instances subjected their daughters-in-law to cruelty. Much work, she added, had to be done to change this exploitative mindset.
Asim Malik and Mehnaz Rehman of the Aurat Foundation, giving a brief history of the organisation, said that since its inception 26 years back it had been striving to create awareness among women of their rights and was presently working in over 120 districts. They said the organisation had also succeeded in getting various women-friendly legislation passed.
Maliha Zia said that currently no domestic violence-related legislation existed at the federal level. This could be formulated by the provinces after the 18th constitutional amendment, which gave them the power to enact their own laws. She said that the Aurat Foundation was lobbying with various MPAs and many of them had also submitted bills on the issue which hopefully would soon be adopted by the legislature. Robina Brohi, Malka Khan and others also spoke.
Sindh Law Minister Ayaz Soomro, who had to speak on the role of the law ministry to eliminate violence against women; Human Rights Minister Nadia Gabol, scheduled to speak on the human rights ministry’s efforts towards the enactment of women-friendly laws, Sindh chief minister’s adviser Sharmila Farooqui, who had to speak on women-friendly laws and the PPP, and MPA Nusrat Abbasi did not turn up at the seminar.