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 first roundtable, “Language of the Constitution”, chaired by Ms. Mehnaz Akbar Aziz, Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Law and Justice and Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, included experts Mr. Farhatullah Baber, Ms. Riffat Inam Butt and Mr. Zafarullah Khan along with discussants Mr. Jam Aslam and Ms. Maliha Zia.
The speakers explored the language used in the Constitution of Pakistan and its impact on gender equality and inclusivity.
Zafarullah Khan exclaimed that
“When masculine pronouns are used it dulls the imagination with gender-based language. It creates floodgates for the masculine gender and barriers for women”.
The speakers also identified gender biases, stereotypes and certain exclusions embedded in the constitutional language and proposed revisiting drafting to promote gender-sensitive and inclusive language in the Constitution.
As Farhatullah Baber noted Article 263 explains that words importing the masculine gender shall be taken to include females. However, the woman’s role is shrunk and a woman is treated as an appendage of the man. She does not have a separate legal entity.
Riffat Inam Butt added that
“if legal drafting is observed, the usage of gender-neutral language is more significant as it is excluding 50% of the population.“
Maliha Zia spoke about how in the Constitution the concept of sex and gender overlap and how consistency is absent when using gender and sex synonymously. She further added how women are mentioned in sections relating to protection, social bias, family and children while men are mentioned in powerful positions thereby creating a gender bias.
Jam Aslam proposed that Members of the National Assembly produce a resolution before the House to use gender-neutral language for future drafting of laws and rules.