Women’s bill scrapes through opposition scrutiny

LAHORE: The Punjab Assembly on Saturday unanimously adopted the Punjab Fair Representation of Women Bill 2014 which is aimed at amending certain laws to ensure representation of women in the decision-making bodies.

At least 25,000 women would become part of different departments/bodies in the province under this law. In some, women will have 33pc representation.

A special session was held on Saturday to mark the International Women’s Day and adopt the bill. A good number of women from all walks of life also attended it. The chief minister ensured his rare appearance in the house after his return from Turkey.

The treasury said the passage of the bill was a “landmark step” to empower women while the opposition said it had nothing for “ordinary women.”

Although the opposition had reservations on the bill which it described as a step to empower “certain class,” it did not vote against it. It was of the view that some women MPAs from treasury would be accommodated in different departments like the Punjab Privatisation Board, the Punjab Procurement Regulatory Authority, the Punjab Daanish Schools and Centres of Excellence Authority, the Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children and the Punjab Examination Commission under this bill.

Opposition Leader Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed said the bill was not aimed at benefitting ordinary women. Every year there had been a 10pc increase in violence against women, he said and called for practical measures to improve the plight of the women in the province.

PPP’s Faiza Malik asked the chief minister to first give rights to the women of “his house” (Punjab Assembly). “The chief minister must put his house in order first. Give development funds to the women MPAs and representation in the district coordination committees. Don’t ignore us for being women elected on reserved seats,” she argued.

Complaining about shortage of space in the house, PTI’s Dr Murad Ras asked Sher Ali Gorchani, who was in the chair, to note the presence of almost all the treasury members (because Shahbaz Sharif is in the house). Several PML-N legislators rose to their seats and shouted at Mr Ras for his “unworthy comment.”

Amer Sultan Cheema of the PML-Q said his party’s government was the first to give 33pc representation to women. “The present government reduced the women representation in the local body which is unfortunate,” he said.

Rahila Anwar said the bill for “privileged women” had been passed today but the bill on domestic violence was still pending.

Addressing the house, Shahbaz Sharif said the bill was a big step towards women empowerment. He said 60pc of the 200,000 laptops had been distributed among women. Similarly, 50pc of the small loans had been given to women for business.

He said the government would regularise the services of the lady health workers and he would present the findings of the inquiry into their torture during their protest on The Mall.

The focus of the chief minister’s speech was China and Turkey where he said women were contributing a lot to the economy and Pakistani women should follow suit.

The house also passed a resolution presented by PML-N’s Hina Pervaiz Butt recommending establishment of a Punjab Women Parliamentary Group that would work for protection of women rights.