The women of Pakistan have made significant contributions to the development of country despite social, cultural and structural constraints. However, their presence in the government structures alone cannot ensure empowerment.
This was stated by the Senate Chairman Nayyer Hussain Bokhari in his inaugural address at a roundtable discussion on “Women’s Empowerment — Myths and Realities”, which was organised to celebrate International Women’s Day at the Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services Thursday.
“To help empower women, legal reforms, political commitment, and realigning of public spending towards gender development is required,” he said.
He urged the people to reject and stand up against the “forces of darkness” who, he said, were trying to impose their views on the country.
Patriarchal social structures are keeping women disempowered, said Senator Afrasiab Khattak. The chairman of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights added that militancy and radicalisation in different parts of the country have increased the vulnerability of women and children.
Criticising the jirga and panchayat system, he said these forums are exclusively run by men and often women are on the receiving end. He added that civil society should be vigilant to ensure that women rights are not compromised during the current talks with the extremist militant groups.
Member National Assembly (MNA) Shaista Pervaiz Malik said the country has progressed significantly on the path towards gender equality, noting that the current ranking of Pakistan on the Gender Index is better than many developed countries. Bringing up an ongoing medical ‘debate’, Senator Nasreen Jalil said that DNA test should be considered acceptable evidence in cases of rape.
It was also recommended that tax exemptions be considered for disabled women.
MNA Mariyum Aurangzeb, Fatimah Jinnah Women University Vice Chancellor Dr Samina Ameen Qadir, Dr Aliya Khan and Syeda Viqarun Nisa Hashmi also spoke.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2014.