June 6, 2023
Parliamentarians, members of the legal fraternity and civil society organizations gathered for a seminar on ‘Reclaiming The Space: Reading the Constitution from Women’s Perspective’ organized by the Ministry of Law & Justice and the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus at Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS), Islamabad.
The second roundtable, chaired by Dr. Nafisa Shah, Founding Secretary Women’s Parliamentary Caucus and Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, focused on “Gender Equality” with experts Ms Nida Aly and Ms. Sabahat Rizvi and discussants Ms Farida Shaheed and Mr. Usama Malik.
The speakers critically reviewed existing provisions relating to gender equality, identified gaps, and proposed amendments to ensure equal access to education, healthcare, employment, and protection from gender-based violence.
Dr. Nafisa Shah, Member of the National Assembly noted how the 1973 Constitution has a lot of ambiguous positive and negative rights. She highlighted how powerful the Article on Equality is and that it should guide us all.
Farida Shaheed, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, emphasized the need for a Ministry for Women which specifically looks at the development, law and women’s rights issues.
Nida Aly recommended amending Article 25 to include other protected grounds like race, religion, and other factors to reflect female intersectionality. As she emphasized,
“If the protection is offered by the constitution then it supersedes all legislation and makes it more strengthened“.
Nida Aly further noted that such an approach will help not only counter direct but also indirect discrimination.
Adding to the conversation, Sabahat Rizvi highlighted how Article 35 protects the child and mother but that there is no legislation on maternity, adoption or pornography. She raised alarm about how women and children are being trafficked but there is no legislative mechanism to protect them.
Usama Malik proposed an amendment to Article 175A to include reserved seats for women in the judiciary so that there is greater female representation in the law