NationalVolume 12 Issue # 21

A giant leap

Although women-related issues have been the concern of policy makers in Pakistan over the years, yet the post-18th amendment scenario in the Constitution in 2010 unleashed a renewed focus on the subject at provincial level in Punjab. In 2012, a paradigm shift was witnessed in government of the Punjab’s approach to empowerment policy titled Punjab Women Empowerment Package (PWEP) announced by the Chief Minister Punjab Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, during celebrations of International Women’s Day on 8 March, 2012, which was followed by Punjab Women Empowerment Initiatives, 2014 and 2016.

Punjab Women Empowerment Package 2012, has declared unequivocally that women empowerment and gender equality commanded a place of prominence among the priorities of government of Punjab. Establishment of a dedicated Women Development Department, with the mandate to implement PWEP 2012 followed by Punjab Women Empowerment Initiatives 2014 and 2016, for gradual transformation of the provincial government, commenced an objective to turn government of Punjab into an entity of active practices and promotion of women empowerment and gender equality. This endeavour entails a number of landmark measures undertaken with the overwhelming support of the chief minister and the assistance of administrative departments. Under the supervision of Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, a number of landmark steps have been taken to help provide better quality of life to women.

In this regard, establishment of a dedicated Women Development Department with a mandate to implement Punjab Women Empowerment Package 2012, Punjab Women Empowerment Initiatives 2014, and Punjab Women Empowerment Initiatives, 2016 is an important achievement. Similarly, establishment of office of Ombudsperson under the Punjab Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2012, is a very useful institution for dealing with complaints of harassment. Anti-Harassment Committees in all public and private sector departments and districts have also been constituted to inquire into complaints of harassment.

The Punjab Commission on the Status of Women has been set up under the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women Act 2014, as an independent, autonomous body to review laws, rules and policies affecting rights and status of women and suggest their repeal to eliminate discrimination. Similarly, the Social Welfare Department is assigned to establish Violence against Women (VAW) Centers to protect women from physical and psychological violence. A center has already been established at Multan, while two such centers are in the pipeline. Meanwhile, Punjab Women Protection Authority is being established soon. It may be added here that Punjab Women Development Department’s Helpline 1043 is managed by the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women. This commission is established to provide referral support to women in access to justice and in other matters. 16 Working Women Hostels are also providing safe, secure and economic accommodations to working women.

The Punjab Fair Representation of Women Act 2014, was passed in 2014, amending 66 laws to provide 33% representation of women in public sector companies, regulatory bodies, special task forces and committees at

As for as the improvements in health facilities under the Punjab Women Empowerment Initiatives are concerned, 800 BHUs are providing 24/7 hours mother and child care services. Comprehensive nutrition programs in 700 BHUs have been started. Out of 7.9 million beneficiaries of the Health Insurance Scheme, 4.1 million are women (57%). Moreover, 49,000 LHWs have been regularized and 14 Mobile Health Units, with mammographic services, are also provided.

district level. Under this law, more than 25,000 women have been placed at decision-making level. Women Development Department has got registered Punjab Day Care Fund Society (PDCF) under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. The PDCF has funded more than 75 day care centers at various public and private sector institutions and offices with a grant of Rs.200 million. Punjab Working Women Endowment Fund Society has been also registered for provision of financial assistance to working women residing in hostels. For the purpose, the government of the Punjab has released Rs.295 million. Meanwhile, out of 709 police stations in the province, female help desks have been established in 696 police stations to help litigant women.

The offence of acid throwing has been notified to be dealt with by the Anti-Terrorism Courts. The punishment under this offence is life imprisonment or imprisonment up to 14 years and a fine worth Rs.10 lakh. Moreover, Provincial and District Acid Burn Survivors Boards have been established for medical and psychological care of the victims. To regulate sale, purchase and storage of acids, Local Government Department has notified model bylaws for adoption and strict compliance by Deputy Commissioners. 12 Women Crisis and Rehabilitation Help Desks are working under the Social Welfare Department to provide medical, legal and psychological care.

Under rule 15 of the West Pakistan Minimum Wages Rules 1962 and notification issued by the Labour and Human Resource Department same minimum wage has been ensured for both male and female workers.

Following amendments in laws have been made to introduce measures aimed at eliminating discriminatory practices against women in matters of inherited property. Punjab Land Revenue (Amendment) Act 2012, has been passed by the Provincial Assembly and notified for mandatory partition of property by Revenue Officers within 180 days from the date of sanctioning of mutation of inheritance. The partition Act of 1893 has been repealed and the Punjab Partition of Immovable Property Act, 2012 has been passed by the Provincial Assembly for curtailing delays in the disposal of partition cases and alleviating problems being faced by the joint owners due to protracted litigation. Under newly amended Punjab Land Revenue Rules 1968, notified by the Board of Revenue Punjab, provision of Computerized National Identity Card and B-Form or similar documents of the deceased and all legal heirs has been made mandatory for attestation of inheritance mutation. In order to take action against delinquent Revenue Officers, District Enforcement of Inheritance Rights Committees (DEIRCs) have been constituted by the Board of Revenue Punjab, in every district to scrutinize cases when a person is deprived of his / her inheritance rights by Revenue Officers, or any other person, with mala fide intentions or on account of negligence. The committees have held more than 870 meetings throughout Punjab and decided 207,761 cases for inheritance, mutation and partition of property.

The Board of Revenue has approved issuance of certificates for allotment of Jinnah Abbadies / Kachi Abadis and regularization of village Abadies declaring equal shares of husband and wife. As a result of this policy, a total of 110,000 plots in Jinnah Abadis were allotted throughout the province and 8,273 plots in Katchi Abadis were allotted to both spouses. Table of Registration Fees under Registration Act 1908, has been amended and no registration fee is charged in urban areas on inheritance-based partition instrument. The Stamp Act 1899, has also been amended and stamp duty of Rs500 has been fixed for an inheritance-based partition instrument in urban and rural areas. Similarly, the Punjab Muslim Family Laws (Amendment) Act 2015, binding the Nikah Registrar to fill all columns of the Nikah

Form and the Punjab Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act 2015, have been passed under

which marriage of a girl below the age of 16 years is an offence.

Likewise, 15% employment quota for women in the public sector have saved women from an exhausting hassle. Paternity leave been granted for the first time in the history special dispensation to women has been granted, enhancing eligibility of women to enter into government service.

Inclusion of one woman mandatorily in the recruitment committee in all departments has been notified. Under this intervention, the rights of women to enter into public sector employments have been protected. Separate washrooms and prayers-room for women have been earmarked in all administrative departments and district level offices. Specially designed washrooms for women are constructed at the Punjab Civil Secretariat, Lahore, for women’s protection and their dignity. All administrative departments have been requested to replicate the design in their offices and institutions and demand funding through their Annual Development Programs. Missing facilities have also been provided in different public sector girls’ schools and colleges. Besides provision of 275 buses, at least one Girls Degree College has been provided in every district with a hostel facility.

As for as the improvements in health facilities under the Punjab Women Empowerment Initiatives are concerned, 800 BHUs are providing 24/7 hours mother and child care services. Comprehensive nutrition programs in 700 BHUs have been started. Out of 7.9 million beneficiaries of the Health Insurance Scheme, 4.1 million are women (57%). Moreover, 49,000 LHWs have been regularized and 14 Mobile Health Units, with mammographic services, are also provided.

The Women Development Department has also trained domestic workers in different beneficial skills including cooking, serving, laundry, caring (for infants, children and elderly people), housekeeping including training on personal hygiene, manners/ethics and awareness about their rights. Interestfree loans to 617,750 women amounting to Rs12.70 billion have been given. Similarly, skills training to different women, including domestic workers has been granted in marketing, start-up programs for small businesses and poultry farming

The Punjab government has also distributed more than 256,000 poultry units and 28,144 cattle heads and goats among women in 36 districts. The provincial government has established Daanish Schools and Centers of Excellence in different districts where needy, but bright, girls are given admission to study free of cost; and PEEF scholarships have also been awarded to more than 119,313 students amounting to Rs5.087 billion.

The above-mentioned steps are the start of providing a conducive atmosphere to women so that they can play a proactive role in the national development. It is hoped that these steps will help to form a women-friendly society in Pakistan where they will be treated equally at every level.