November 23rd, 2020
Gender-based violence courts in Sindh are taking about 17 months to conclude proceedings despite the mandatory timeframe of three months under the law, said Murtaza Wahab, Chief Minister’s Advisor on Law, revealed in a seminar on the launch of Shirkat Gah’s policy document on the impacts of COVID on women.
Speaking at the launch of the policy document “Rising to the Challenges: Gender-Responsive Policy Options for COVID-19 & Other Emergencies”, Wahab said Sindh was the first province to enact a law in September 2018, for mediation in family cases. But it was unfortunate, he said, that not a single case has been referred for mediation in the past 24 months.
Wahab said no new laws were needed but rather sensitization was required towards issues connected with women and children. The coordination between the three pillars of the state- the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary is essential to implementing policies geared toward the betterment of women. He said the problems faced by the bureaucracy and the government in the implementation of laws should be brought before the public.
In his closing remarks, Wahab highlighted that there is a need for the implementation and deliverance of laws, especially towards the GBV cases. “We have too many challenges as a country and we need to rise up to the challenges,” he added. He complimented the Sindh Commission on Status of Women and Shirkat Gah for presenting the policy document to the Sindh government.
Farida Shaheed, Executive Director, Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre, presented the policy document key takeaways from the policy document and urged present members of the Sindh government to take the policy up and ensure timely implementation.
In her speech, Nuzhat Shirin, Chairperson SCSW, highlighted the policy document explaining the immediate actions SCSW actively partook during COVID. “Our Sindh government has no tolerance towards violence against women. When women institutions were closed during the lockdown, we still were online and we made commissions; we fulfilled complaints that women had related to rations etc,” she told the participants.
What’s in the policy document?
According to the policy document, women face considerable threats to their economic, physical, legal, and social security in emergencies such as the COVID pandemic. The lack of emergency services especially exacerbates issues of access and relief for women and girls across the following four areas: reproductive health, gender-based violence, education, and economic resilience.
Recommendations for legislative action
The policy document recommended some immediate legislative actions that need to be implemented, such as, expanding the definition of essential services to include all gender-based violence response services and mechanisms to safeguard against any disruption during any emergency or disaster situations; strengthening services and ensuring access for Gender-Based Violence survivors during all emergencies, including COVID.
The policy also called for expediting the implementation of the Sindh Reproductive Healthcare Rights Act 2019 in order to ensure a maximum number of attendance in schools, safe reopening is essential (especially for female students) in Sindh.
The launch was attended by honorable parliamentarians, members of civil society, members of labour unions, and many stakeholders. Notable guests included Barrister Murtaza Wahab, advisor to Chief Minister of Sindh on law and environment; Ms. Khawar Mumtaz, former chairperson National Commission on the Status of Women; Ms. Nuzhat Shirin, Chairperson Sindh Commission on the Status of Women; Dr. Yasmin Qazi, Senior Technical Advisor of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Dr. Talib Lashari, Senior Consultant Costed Implementation Plan, Department of Health and Population Welfare, Sindh; Ms. Alia Shahid, Secretary Women Development Department, Govt of Sindh; Mr. Virjee Kohli, Special Assistant Sindh Human Rights Department; Dr. Fauzia, technical advisor SELD; Ms. Rana Ansar, MPA Sindh, ex general secretary Womens Parliamentary Caucus; Dr. Qarrar Abbasi, police surgeon, and Mr. Javed Akhbar, DIG south Karachi.