Aurat Publication & Information Service Foundation
Workshop on understanding gender concepts and legislative issues , Bhurban


Workshop on understanding gender concepts and legislative issues

A one-day workshop on ‘understanding gender concepts and legislative issues’ was organized by AAWAZ Voice and Accountability Programme on April 29, 2014, at a local hotel in Bhurbhan.  It was attended by representatives of PML-N, PPPP, MQM, PTI, JI, JUI-F, ANP, QWP and PML-Q.

The representative of political parties and parliamentarians included Senator Ms Farah Aqil Shah, ANP, Senaor Mr Amar Jeet Malhotra, ANP,  Ms Asia Naz Tanoli, MNA, PML-N, Ms Farhana Qamar, MNA, PML-N, Mr Rashid Mehmbood Khan, MNA,  PML-N, Mr Abdul Rehman Kanju, MNA, PML-N, Dr Mahreen Bhuttu, MNA, PPPP, Mr Shaukat Basra, MNA PPPP Punjab, Mr Amir Fida Paracha, Incharge Central Secretariat, PPPP, Islamabad, Mr Muhamad Ali Rashid, MNA, MQM, Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif, former federal minister, MQM, Ms Kishwar Zahra, MNA, MQM, Mr Ateeq Rehman, office bearer MQM, Mr Shehryar Afridi, MNA, PTI, Ms Munaza Hassan, MNA, PTI, Ms Nafeesa Inayatullah Khattak, MNA, PTI, Ms Sajida Zulfiqar Khan, MNA, PTI, Mr Farid Ahmed Piracha, JI, Dr Rukhsana Jabeen, Secretary Women Wing JI, Naeema Kishwar, MNA, JUI, Ms Shahida Akhtar Ali, MNA, JUI,  Mr Meraj Humayun Khan, MPA, QWP, Mr Tariq Ahmed Khan, Information Secretary, QWP, Mr Sultan Muhammad Khan, MPA, QWP, Mr Asad Afridi Advocate, office bearer QWP FATA, Ms Jameela Gilani, former MNA, ANP, Syed Jaffar Shah, officer bearer, ANP, Ms Maham Ali, General Secretary Central Women Wing, PML-Q, Ms Fauzia Naz, Secretary General Women Wing PML-Q, and Syed Faqir Hussain Bukhari, office bearer PML-Q.

Welcoming the participants, Mr Sajid Mansoor Qaisrani, Executive Director SUNGI Development Foundation, stressed the need for a political and democratic society in Pakistan.  He said that only a participatory and inclusive democracy can survive and benefit the society. He said that AAWAZ programme strive for a stable, inclusive and tolerant democracy in Pakistan with a focus that democratic processes are more open, inclusive and accountable to citizens, specially focused on women and minority religious groups.

Mr Naeem Mirza, Chief Operating Officer, Aurat Foundation, in his introductory remarks updated the participants about the history of women’s reserved seats in Pakistan, and various models adopted by various countries.  He invited the participants to discuss and give suggestion on which model of reserved seats for women be adopted in Pakistan.  Tipping various points for discussion, he also asked the participants to discuss how to end violence against women in Pakistan.

Ms Khiswar Sultana, Gender Specialist, took a session on ‘Understanding Basic Gender Concepts’, which discussed the difference between gender and sex, gender division of labour, gender equity and equality, gender gaps, and practical gender needs vs. strategic gender needs.  She also discussed how many identities a person may have and how are they developed with social, political, ideological, religious, sectarian, ethnic and geographical linkages.  She said that these are identities which define or declare one as powerful or powerless.  Women have weaker identities and hence face violence from men, who have stronger identities.  She also said that these identities are developed by state, classes, religions, myths etc rather than oneself.  She said that the word ‘gender’ is neutral word which comprises both men and women, only the society and the socio-political systems and so-called traditions decide the weaker and stronger gender.  This brings inequality among gender, and so women were made weaker gender. She said that most of the work done by women goes unpaid.  Her reproductive role is not valued and paid, although in Islam there is an option that a mother may get paid for feeding her baby.

The second session, titled ‘Legislative Dynamics: Rule of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly’ was delivered by Mr Muhammad Mushtaq, Joint Secretary, Legislation, National Assembly.  He said that Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, and Rules of Procedure of Pakistan 1973 provide the rules according to which the business of the House is conducted.  Addressing to the parliamentarians present in the policy dialogue, he said that a careful and detailed reading of the rules would provide the parliamentarians an opportunity to fully participate in the business of the house and see any violation of the rule is hindering their right to take up issue on the floor of the House.   The National Assembly also provides researcher to facilitate them in formulating questions, calling attention notices, points of order, motions, bills etc.

He further briefed the participants about question hour, supplementary questions, moving calling attention notices, motions and bill, raising point of order and privilege motions etc.  Parliamentarians asked a lot of question about the rules and conduct of parliamentary business and raised many complaints that their interventions are not responded fully and properly.  They also asked questions about the powers of the Speaker in requisitioning and adjourning the national sessions.  About the question that if  Standing Committee on Finance has any role in budget making process, he replied that Finance Committee has a lot of role in budget making as is the case in other countries.

Ms Sadia Mumtaz, Gender/ Legal Expert delivered third session on ‘Women Legislative Quotas – Models and Constraints’, which covered types of electoral quotas like reserved seats, legislative candidates quotas and voluntary party quotas, in Pakistan and other countries. For voluntary party quotas, political parties take measure voluntarily by adopting a quota requiring comprise a certain proportion of candidates who are allocated tickets to contest elections.  She also gave the history of reserved seats in the parliamentary since 1956 Constitution to 1973 Constitution and then the allocation of 17% quota for women in parliament in 2002. While talking about proposals for electoral quotas, she discussed the recommendations of the Commission on Inquiry 1997 and proposal by various political parties.  She also discussed the constraints in existing system e.g. women do not have a constituency, they do dependent on men for their nomination as candidate, there is no criteria of nomination of women on the basis of priority, and that voters do not know who will be their women representative in assemblies.

Participants reached to the conclusion that in Pakistan the current reserved seats system should prevail with some reforms and also the political parties should be bound through legislation to allocate a percentage of party tickets for women. A point was raised to include women from minorities, and from Tribal Areas.

Third session was titled ‘An Overview of Pro-Women Legislative Initiatives (First Parliamentary Year of 14th National Assembly)’ was contributed by representatives of political parties.  One representative from each party was asked to share the commitments of their party towards and their role so far in pro-women policy making and legislation.  Ms Anbreen Ajaib, Gender Advisor, SPO, concluded the proceedings and debate of the first day of the policy dialogue.

AWAZ Voice and Accountability, a five year programme, is aimed at inclusive and tolerant democracy in Pakistan, which is open, inclusive and accountable to citizens, specially focused on women and minority religious groups. The project is implemented through five leading NGOs of Pakistan i.e. Aurat Foundation, Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO), South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP-PK), SUNGI Development Foundation and Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), and a management organization (DAI).  The geographical range of AAWAZ Programme is 45 districts of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.