||Qaria Sadia Rizwana
|Introduction and Objectives
||Ms. Aliya, Secretary Social Welfare Department (SWD) , NWFP
|Welcome and opening address
||Zarine Imdad Hussain, Director SWD
||SSP Prisons & Secretary, Law Ministry
|Summary of Code
||Dr. Fouzia Saeed
|Comments on Code
|Comments on Code
|Closing remarks of Chief Guest
||Qari Roohullah Madani, provincial minister Zakat, Social Welfare and Women Development
|Vote of Thanks
||Additional Secretary SWD
The consultation began by a recitation from the Holy Quran by Qaria Sadia Rizwana.
It was followed by a prayer for late Omar Asghar Khan, ex-federal minister who had died earlier in the day. His departure had a profound affect on all participants, more so since he was a figure who represented change, development, commitment and courage for the country.
The participants were a diverse gathering from all over the province, not just from Peshawar city but also from Hazara, upper and lower Malakand division as well as other relatively remote areas of the province. There was very strong government level representation, as well as leading intellectuals and scholars, NGOs, academicians, activists and women workers from throughout the region.
Ms. Aliya Secretary of Social Welfare Department introduced the aims and objectives of the consultation, and of AASHA. She spoke about the concepts of gender equity and equality in Islam, underlining the need for bringing Pakistani society in line with its teaching, and how the implementation of the Code would ensure this.
Zarine Imdaad, the director of the social welfare department then gave her opening address. She shared with the participants the urgency for introducing the Code and the binding nature of international legislation Pakistan is signatory to. With special reference to CEDAW and ILO Convention No. 11, for example, she said Pakistan needs to bring its domestic laws at par with these, which the country is signatory to. She highlighted the example of Malaysia and Bangladesh and the progressive legislations passed in those countries. Stating all human beings have the right to work with respect and dignity, she appealed to all participants to not just endorse the Code but to own the issue and carry it forward in their own capacities.
An outline of the Code, its summary and main points were then presented by Dr. Fouzia Saeed from Action Aid. In addition, she explained the provisions in the Constitution about gender equality and that this Code was not bringing in a new concept, just adding emphasis and articulating concerns which had not been given explicit legislative attention. The Code would add a tangible policy, building on the spirit and intention expressed in the Constitution.
Zubaida Khatoon, who heads UNICEF in NWFP spoke about the development in the field of human rights and said that such a consultation was a source of encouragement and that the country was discussing such issues which were initially taboo was nothing short of a miracle. She spoke about the universality of human rights and women's rights in particular, and that it should be on everybody's conscience to safeguard them. She also warned that the workplace was not the only site of harassment, and that public places need to be focused on. She reiterated the need for creating a conducive work environment for working women.
Sadia Rizwana, a teacher at Peshawar University spoke about the significance of religion in addressing women's rights. She stated that the Quran itself was a charter for women's rights and elevated that status of women in society. She quoted Quranic ayats and suras which emphasized a woman's high place in religion and society and said that the Code only supplemented what the Holy Book already stated, and that the Code was in line with religious instructions, endorsing it fully. She mentioned that women had the right to work and be productive members of society, as long as they did not compromise on other aspects of their personal life. The Code therefore, just stated explicitly provisions that Islam had already outlined, such as a woman's right to dignity and respect.
The Chief Guest, the provincial minister for social welfare, ushr, zakat and women development then made the closing remarks. He spoke about the importance of women in society, stating that Islam placed women not at par with men, but above them. He said they formed the essence of society and that they should suffer harassment was not just an insult to women but an affront to society. The emphasized a need for intolerance of such behavior and collective will for combating such mindsets that permit this.
The closing and vote of thanks was delivered by the additional secretary of the social welfare department, who ended by saying that he, along with all participants were eager to see this Code passed as a law.
This was followed by a lively interactive session of inputs and recommendations.
The participants endorsed the promulgation of the Code, but were concerned about the implementation since there were instances where the judiciary, government and state machinery itself did not uphold the law.
It was felt that though the Code is titled for gender justice, most of its provision extended security to women and did not seem as equipped to deal with harassment of men. It also did not focus on other grouping who could be vulnerable, such as minorities.
It was felt that the existing legal structures were archaic and colonial in nature, and would be insufficient to complement the Code of Conduct. For instance, the law against molestation of women and punishment for aggression against them are difficult to prove and have minimal punishment.
There was also concern that since the code would be non-cognizable and no punishment could be given, it would hamper its effectiveness. Severe punishment and publicity of punishments were suggested for deterrence purposes.
The participants appreciated the efforts of finding Quranic injunctions to support the Code and mentioned that it was essential to derive our context from this and not rely as much on western tools.
The participants also warned that the Code could become a law which existed only on books so there should be renewed efforts on implementation. Additionally, there should be an effort to ensure the law is not misused or abused. There was great emphasis placed on owning the issue and not casting blame at other agencies for non-implementation and that everyone should contribute and ensure adoption in their own capacities.
There was also some confusion about where the lines would be drawn making behaviour ‘unwanted' and ‘unwelcome', and how organizations should perceive involvements at the workplace if they are ‘welcome'.
It was suggested that definitions should be expanded, to include different forms of harassment and to include sole proprietorship of employers, and to include the girl child in domestic labour in definition of workers.
It was also recommended that the Quranic injunctions should be included in the preamble or write up to the Code.
It was felt that the two week time period given to the accused to respond to the accusation was too much time, since it could be used to intimidate the person who has made the charge and to employ different means to retract the charge.
In many areas of the province, it was expressed that women did not know what their rights are and what their avenues of redress are, so awareness raising was crucial. It was also suggested that employees should be legally bound to communicate the Code to all employees. Here, it was also stated that over arching bodies to monitor committees should be constituted, and that people on it should be able to develop a rapport and trust with the women who file complains.
Participants also urged sensitization of media as it was felt it often reinforces stereo types and imposes ‘victim mentality' on women.
It was strongly felt that democratic structures need to be brought into place to protect people's rights. In this vein, the local
councillors could prove to be a strategic asset. Since devolution, a network, responsive and answerable to people has been brought in place. This could be used to solve issues and complains at the district level, in particular where there are women