February 22nd, 2021
By Munizae Jahangir
The Presidency is planning a national helpline for women victims of violence as well as telehealth services as part of measures to ensure the protection of vulnerable women in the country, President Dr. Arif Alvi has revealed in an exclusive interview with Voicepk.net
More laws on women but even less implementation
Talking about legislation relating to the protection of women in the interview at the Presidency in Islamabad, Dr. Arif Ali disclosed that Pakistan has more laws than the possible mechanism of their implementation. On the rights of inheritance, President Ali said Islam allowed inheritance to women 1500 years ago while Europe did so 200 hundred ago.
Ulema and people to be taken on board for implementation of women laws
The laws on women’s betterment have existed but cultural tendencies have resisted their implementation. “Sometimes, in certain areas of Pakistan, women do not inherit property despite the existence of laws,” he explained, adding what was needed was that the government has to take Ulema and people from segments of society on board to ensure that the laws are implemented.
Parliament can decide on age of marriage after CII advice
Helpline for women
The President emphasized opening up public spaces in order to make women feel more secure while going out to work. Talking about harassment women face in workplaces, President Alvi said harassment was a global issue, adding that some areas may have less or more of the issue. “Women should feel secure, it’s not an issue that my daughter and wife should be secure. It’s a matter of every woman in Pakistan,” he said.
Harassment a matter of every woman in Pakistan
Harassment affects all women
Dr. Alvi said his presidency and the government had the responsibility to protect all women of the country from harassment, adding that after deliberations he had come to the conclusion that issues concerning women regarding marriages and their dissolution need a faster mechanism of resolution. “For instance, the establishment of special courts and police stations where women feel more comfortable going to seek redress of their grievances,” he said. Elaborating on some measures taken recently, President Alvi said the anti-rape ordinance has been promulgated so that rape survivors feel comfortable reporting the crime to police stations. “The purpose behind the ordinance was that fairness and justice prevail and society gets a broader message,” he added.
The media should stop the portrayal of violence
Talking about how to change the societal attitude towards violence against women, President Alvi said following discussions on the issue with stakeholders he was of the opinion that media could help in this regard by refraining from the portrayal of violence in plays and serials. “The media should not show incidents of violence as people learn from it,” he said. In his view, it was of utmost importance that women facing any kind of violence should be able to seek help and protection. “I’m thinking of a national telephonic helpline for women,” he revealed.
The media should not show incident of violence
Telehealth services for women
Similarly, Dr. Ali said, the health issues of women need to be taken up as this was linked to their protection. He said that the solution to women’s health lies in access to telehealth facilities as many women in the country were not able to go out of their homes to seek medical treatment. “Most women are housewives, work at home, or their husbands might not have the energy to take them to a doctor after a laborious day,” he said, adding that telehealth centers will reach out to such vulnerable women.
Women entrepreneurs unaware of loan schemes
Unfortunately, the President said the government had started many programs for economic empowerment of women in the country but a minuscule number of women have availed the loan facility for women entrepreneurs. “According to figures from State Bank and commercial banks only 5% of the millions of funds earmarked for women entrepreneurs had been availed,” President Alvi revealed. Despite the fact that the loan plans for women entrepreneurs to the limit of Rs 5 million carried two percent less markup than the market rate, he added.
Only 5% loans for women entrepreneurs availed
CII advice needed on the age of marriage
Asked about his opinion about the Marriage Restraint Act that sets the age of marriage of a female at 16 years while it was 18 years under international laws to which Pakistan is a signatory, President Alvi said the age of marriage related to religion, therefore a religious interpretation was required, adding that Pakistan had signed many international treaties but did not override the laws prevalent in the country. “On the matter of the age of marriage of females, we have to go by the advice of the Council of Islamic Ideology. Following the advice, it will be up to the Parliament to keep the age of marriage or increase it to 18 years,” he said.