13th National Assembly stands out for pro-women legislation

  • Overall 372 parliamentary interventions on women rights

ISLAMABAD, March 7, 2013: Women’s inclusion in the political process, preventing anti-women practices, and addressing their vulnerability in conflict-hit areas brought political parties together in the 13th National Assembly, which stood out for pro-women legislation, reflecting some of the promises political parties made in their manifestoes before the 2008 elections.

A Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) report on the eve of the International Women’s Day said overall 372 parliamentary interventions on women rights were made in the 13th National Assembly. The report covers 48 sessions of the lower house.

These included 193 questions, 16 resolutions, 16 bills, 12 calling attention notices, five motions under rule 259, and one matter of public importance. Additionally legislators spoke on women rights on 129 points of order.

The lower house passed bills on domestic violence against women and children, harassment at workplace, acid throwing, anti-women practices such as giving a female to settle disputes, forced marriages, depriving women of property, prohibiting marriage with the Holy Quran and setting up a National Commission on the Status of Women. The bill on domestic violence passed by the National Assembly on August 4, 2009 lapsed in the Senate.

In their manifestoes the main political parties in the National Assembly – Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), Awami National Party (ANP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Party (MMAP) and Pakistan Muslim League (PML) – variously promised to end discriminatory policies against women and legislate to prevent domestic violence and anti-women practices. The parties also promised social, political and economic empowerment for women.

In a show of political consensus, women parliamentarians of PPPP, PMLN, ANP, PML and a minority female JUIF legislator proposed an amendment to the Political Parties Order 2002 calling for 33% quota for women in all political parties as well as 10% quota for women candidates for elective offices on general seats. The bill, introduced in the fourth parliamentary year, was not passed by the National Assembly.

In another show of consensus, on a calling attention notice, PPPP, MQM, ANP and PML female legislators inquired from the executive why women were barred from voting in by-elections. Moved by the government and coalition parties, on another notice, the house condemned anti women practices (vani and swara).

Government, opposition and coalition partners also took a united stand on human rights violations in Swat, especially those involving women, in a resolution presented by members of PPPP, PMLN, PML, ANP, BNPA, MQM, JUIF and Independents.

Eleven more bills were introduced on women rights in the National Assembly. These comprised two on protection of working women including domestic workers;, giving maintenance and custody of children in case of second marriage; violence against women at home or in the workplace; restraining child marriage, reproductive rights, prevention and control of women trafficking, acid and burn crime, flexibility in working hours for women in factories and the amendment to the Political Parties Order 2002.

However, issues of female education and health largely remained ignored. A single resolution on funds not released for a women’s university in Balochistan was moved jointly by PPPP and MMAP legislators along with two calling attention notices regarding monthly educational stipends for female students by PPPP members. A bill on reproductive healthcare and rights was introduced by PML lawmakers.

On 129 points of order, the legislators spoke on women rights. The Parliamentarians sought explanations from the executive on discrimination and violence against women, their development, employment, education and health through 193 questions. More than half of the questions came from the opposition benches.

The main opposition party – PMLN – submitted the most parliamentary interventions (153) on women rights, followed by PPPP(113).

About FAFEN: FAFEN is a network of 42 civil society organizations working to foster democratic accountabilities in Pakistan. It is governed by Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability.