Role of Government Institutions in addressing VAW and Transforming Masculine Behaviors and Patriarchal Norm

WEBINAR 22nd July, 2020

About the Webinar:
Women Commissions have been established in Pakistan in response to the efforts to ensure equal rights for women and ending gender-based discrimination. At the state level, the setting up of these commissions was a result of Pakistan’s international commitments such as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 1995; and National Plan of Action (NPA) for Women 1998. . The first National Commission on Status of Women Pakistan (NCSW) was established in July 2000. The main functions of the Commission on the Status of Women include examination of government policies, programmes and other measures taken for women’s development. The Commission is also responsible for reviewing all policies, laws, rules and regulations affecting the status and rights of women and ensuring gender equality in accordance with the constitution. In February 2020, the Ministry of Human Rights involving the Commission responded to List Of Issues (LoIs) under CEDAW review and mentioned its commitment to engaging men and boys to prevent VAW in communities.
At the provincial level the Punjab Commission on Status of Women, Sindh Commission on Status of Women and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Commission on the Status of Women are actively working to curb VAW in the respective provinces. These Commissions also play their role as statutory and autonomous bodies overseeing the implementation of pro women laws. Their function is to facilitate and monitor the implementation of instruments and obligations affecting women and girls to which Pakistan is a signatory and monitor redressal mechanisms for violence against women.
The webinar will look at the role of Commission but also discuss other institutions such as police departments, health facilities, judiciary and the Ministry of Human Rights in the enforcement of pro-women laws and offering protection to women. The aim of this webinar is to deliberate on functions of these institutions and review their progress in providing protection for women, engaging men and boys using gender transformative approach in Pakistan. During the webinar following questions shall be addressed by the speakers:

1. How effective have these Government machineries been in ensuring of women’s rights and gender equality in the country?
2. How can these institutions engage men and boys to counter gender inequalities with a gender transformative approach?
3. What is the importance of working towards shifting masculinities to sustain interventions around women’s emancipation?
4. In what ways can policies and laws be analyzed to include men’s perspective in enabling transformation in popular masculine attitudes and behaviors at these institutions?



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 wellbeing.

Role of men and boys in implementation of pro-women laws:

Several studies point to the importance of engaging men and boys in efforts to reduce GBV. Unpacking masculinities, addressing harmful practices and attitudes by including men and boys in discussions is pivotal in bringing sustained change.

Similarly, when the implementation of pro-women laws in Pakistan is analyzed, police, health and social welfare departments emerge as key institutions where according to the law, response services are centered. Effective implementation would require both structural and non-structural changes in these institutions. Police in Pakistan, for instance, is largely dominated by men who make up around 98 per cent of the force.The police is one of the most important institutions in the implementation of pro-women laws, however, women make up only 1.5 per cent of the force. When analysed through the lens of traditional masculinities, these numbers allude to the impediments to offering quality services to women in accordance with the law. The speakers in this webinar will be discussing the importance of addressing the gender gap in public services, especially those related to the implementation of pro-women laws.