June 6, 2023
The Ministry of Law & Justice, in collaboration with the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, successfully concluded a two-day seminar titled “Reclaiming The Space: Reading the Constitution from Women’s Perspective” held between 5th to 6th June 2023 in honour of the Constitution’s 50th Anniversary. The seminar attended by parliamentarians, members of the legal fraternity, civil society organizations and students and activists aimed to analyze and discuss constitutional provisions from a women’s perspective and propose amendments to promote gender equality and inclusivity in Pakistan.
The inaugural session of the seminar commenced with a warm welcome address by the Honorable Syeda Shahida Rehmani, Secretary of the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus and Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, who emphasized the significance of the Constitution’s golden jubilee while acknowledging the persistent presence of gender discrimination, despite the existence of Article 25, which aims to safeguard all citizens from such inequality.
The Chief Guest for the seminar was the Honorable Raja Pervez Ashraf, Speaker of the National Assembly of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The Speaker praised the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus for organizing this meaningful seminar. Addressing the audience, he stated that it is our responsibility to interpret the Constitution according to the legislature’s intent and effectuate women’s empowerment. He further recommended that after the 18th Amendment, there should be a Women’s Ministry in the federal and provincial jurisdiction. The Honourable Speaker further stressed how until women are given equal standing as men in society, the society will never excel.
The esteemed audience was enlightened by Honorable Dr. Nafisa Shah, Founding Secretary of the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus and Member of the National Assembly, who presented on “Constitutionalism & the Role of Women”. She highlighted the 6 women who sat in the constituent assembly which passed the 1973 constitution including Begum Nasim Jahan, Jennifer Jehanzeba, Shireen Wahab, Nargis Naim, Zahida Sultana, and Dr. Ashraf Abbasi. Ms Nafisa Shah further stated that as we mark 50 years of celebrating equality rights to women it is important to assess the women’s relation to the Constitution and whether the women of Pakistan feel intimately connected to it.
The esteemed Ms. Mehnaz Akbar Aziz, Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Law and Justice and Member of the National Assembly, highlighted the importance of having a dialogue on the Constitution and translating the equal rights it grants women into the everyday life of all citizens in Pakistan. She added that conducive political space needs to be created to contest general seats and women shouldn’t wait for husbands, brothers and father’s accidents to come into politics.
In her speech, Ms. Shaista Pervaiz Malik questioned why women are still not given opportunities to fight direct elections and not just occupy reserved seats. As she noted
“Women want the opportunity to coexist and to move forward. Women want to excel along with men, not leave them behind. The Assembly shows that women have proven their existence. Women will not be side-lined anymore”.
The audience was further inspired by the keynote address delivered by the Honorable Attorney General of Pakistan, Mr. Mansoor Usman Awan. He noted that Pakistan cannot progress economically if it does not engage with more than half the population. As he noted,
“Article 18 says everybody is free to profess trade or business. This Article does not require amendment, it requires legislation so that the public and private sectors are forced to create vacancies for women to ensure that women are given a role in the national economy.”
The Federal Minister for Law and Justice, Honorable Azam Nazir Tarar, stated how Pakistan’s ranking in the Global Gender Parity Index was shocking. As he noted, the country is good at legislating but worst at executing. He asserted that there is no use of filling books unless there is an intention to implement these laws.
After the inaugural, the audience moved towards individual sessions. The seminar comprised four interactive and engaging roundtable discussions, on Language, Gender Equality, Women’s Empowerment and Political Representation & Participation, each focusing on specific themes related to reading the Constitution from a women’s perspective.
The seminar concluded with resounding success, leaving a significant impact on the understanding of constitutional provisions from a gender perspective. The Ministry of Law & Justice and the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus expressed their utmost gratitude to all the speakers, experts, and participants for their valuable contributions. The organizers noted that the recommendations generated during the seminar will be meticulously reviewed and considered for future reforms aimed at strengthening women’s rights and promoting gender equality in Pakistan.
Read about the other panels for the seminar “Reclaiming The Space: Reading the Constitution from Women’s Perspective” here:
- Theme 1: Language of the Consitution
Chair: Ms. Mehnaz Akber Aziz
Experts: Mr. Farhatullah Babar, Ms. Riffat Inam Butt, Mr. Zafarullah Khan
Discussants: Maliha Zia, Mr. Jam Aslam
- Theme 2: Gender Equality
Chair: Dr. Nafisa Shah
Experts: Ms. Nida Aly, Ms. Sabahat Rizvi
Discussants: Ms. Farida Shaheed, Mr. Usama Malik
- Theme 3: Women’s Empowerment
Co-chairs Eng. Rukshana Zuberi and Ms. Shahida Rehmani
Experts: Dr Saima Hamid, Mr. Iqbal Detho
Discussants: Ms. Anis Haroon, Ms Asma Manzoor, Mr. Harris Khalique
- Theme 4: Women’s Representation, Political and Electoral Participation
Chairs: Ms. Shaista Pervaiz Malik
Experts: Ms. Khawar Mumtaz, Mr. Saroop Ijaz
Discussants: Ms. Bushra Gohar, Ms Fauzia Viqar