Systemic Barriers and Harmful Masculinities : Analyzing De Facto Challenges in Implementing Pro-Women Laws

Shirakat-Partnership for Development as the Secretariate of MenEngage Alliance Pakistan cordialy invites you to join us for a webinar on “Systemic Barriers and Harmful Masculinities: Analyzing De Facto Challenges in Implementation of Pro Women Laws” to be held on July 15, 2020.
This webinar is a part of series being organized under MenEngage Allinace Pakistan project “Engaging Men and Boys in Accelerating efforts to end GBV in Pakistan” .




  • Ms. Joni Van De Sand – Co-Director, Global MenEngage Alliance, Washington, USA
  • Mr. Sohail Bawani – Trauma Recovery Practitioner, Former Senior instructor at Agha Khan University, Karachi
  • Ms. Neelam Hussain – Executive Coordinator at Simorgh Women’s Resource and Publication Center, Lahore
  • Ms. Selina Ahmed – Programme Head – Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), Bangladesh


  • Ms. Shazia Shaheen – Co-chair Ending Violence Against Women and Girls (EVAWG) Alliance and Head of Programme, Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO), Islamabad


Despite the promulgation of pro-women legislation aimed at protecting women’s rights in Pakistan and addressing gender-based discriminations, the enforcement of these laws remains a challenge. Women continue to face difficulties when exercising their right in many areas such as property, divorce or claiming the custody of children.

In addition to societal impediments, women also face system barriers when attempting to access government services and institutions. Deeply entrenched patriarchal values, traditional masculinities and certain attitudes prevent the enforcement of pro-women legislation. On the other hand, judicial systems and laws are not comprehensive enough to offer complete protection to women. For instance, Protection against harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010 did not cover women working in informal sector or free-lance work domains.

Speakers in this webinar will be analyzing the de-facto challenges and gaps in implementation of pro-women legislation in Pakistan. The discussion will be guided by the following questions:

  • What are the existing gaps in the pro women legislation? What amendments in the laws are required to ensure protection of women?
  • What other factors affect the implementation of these laws? Which patriarchal norms and practices challenge the enforcement of law?
  • What role can law enforcement departments/agencies, often dominated by men, play in protection of women?
  • What role do traditional masculinities play in obstructing the effective implementation of these laws?
  • How are the attitudes of officials serving in respective and relevant government departments are linked in implementation of these laws?
  • How can judicial systems and relevant institutions ensure the enforcement of existing laws?
  • What role can men and boys play in enforcement of women protection laws?


Pro-women legislation in Pakistan

In recent years, several laws aimed at protecting women’s rights have been passed in Pakistan. These include the Protection for Women (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2006, Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace 2010, Prevention of Anti- Women Practices Bill, Acid Control and Acid Crimes Prevention Bill 2011, Women in Distress and Detention Fund (Amendment) Bill and Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2012.

Following the 18th Amendment and the devolution of power to provinces, provincial legislatures have also passed pro-women laws and made amendments to existing laws. These include the Sindh Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2013, Balochistan Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2014 and Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act 2016. Additionally, the Hindu Marriage Act 2016 stipulated a marriage registration process for Hindu citizens of Pakistan, allowing Hindu women to legally register their marriage.

These legislative measures are often seen as great steps towards protecting women against gender-based violence and discrimination and touted by policymakers as having improved women’s economic and social position in Pakistan. However, significant gaps remain in the implementation of these laws and the growing number of GBV cases in Pakistan overshadow these legislative achievements.

Status of women in Pakistan  

Pakistan ranks 151 out of 153 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index Report 2020 index, published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) only managing to surpass Iraq and Yemen. Pakistan received a score of 150 in economic participation and opportunity, 143 in educational attainment, 149 in health and survival and 93 in political empowerment. A comparison of previous rankings shows that the overall ranking for Pakistan has declined from 112 in 2006 to 151 in 2020. Among the seven South Asian countries included in the index, Pakistan charted at the very bottom. Bangladesh ranked 50, followed by Nepal, 101, Sri Lanka, 102, India, 112, Maldives, 123, and Bhutan, 131. Overall, South Asia has closed two-thirds of its gender gap. The region is home to 860 million women, three-fourths of whom live in India.

According to the Human Development Report 2019, Pakistan reported Gender Development Index (GDI) 0.747 and Gender Inequality Index (GII) 0.547 which was highest in the region. These indicators reflect discrimination faced by women in health, education and command over economic resources. A high GII value reveals the loss in human development due to inequality between women and men in reproductive health, empowerment and economic activity.

Pakistan’s poor performance on these indicators raise questions about the effectiveness of legislative measures aimed at protecting women and reducing gender-based inequalities and discrimination. The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on social and economic life have created additional difficulties for women, with more cases of GBV being reported. Lessons from pandemics in the past also show an increased risk of sexual exploitation of women across the world. If these trends are also witnessed in Pakistan, increased sexual violence, coupled with lack of access to SRH facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic can have disastrous impact on women’s health and overall well being.


The webinar series is being organized as part of project by MenEngage Alliance Global tilted “Engaging men and boys in accelerating efforts to end GBV in Pakistan 2019-2020” implemented by Shirakat-Partnership for Development.

This webinar is second in series of webinars on ‘National consultative workshop on gap analysis of pro women legislation’.  First webinar was dedicated to discussion on engaging men to ensure implementation of pro-women legislations in Pakistan. Last two webinars in the series will be on the following topics:

  1. Role of Govt. institutions in addressing VAW and transforming masculine behavior and patriarchal norms
  2. Accountability mechanisms, gender transformative approaches and post legislative scrutiny