13 February, 2011

National Women’s Day marked

Sana Jamal

Islamabad - Islam initially granted all due rights to women in a primitive era when they had no rights at all, however, in today’s era mistreatment of women is often justified in the name of religion. This viewpoint was noted at various events held across the city by women activists and NGOs to create awareness about women rights on National Women’s Day (Feb. 12).

To commemorate National Women’s Day, a discussion on ‘Religious Extremism and its Impact on Women’ was organized by Insani Haqooq Itehad (IHI) on Saturday at National Library in which civil society, women activists, and rural women participated urging the government to immediately pass the ‘Domestic Violence Bill’.

A variety of programmes were also arranged by Women Action Forum (WAF) at Nomad gallery on Saturday including discussion on discriminatory laws and its impact on women in which women activists highlighted that the state of women particularly was deteriorated during Zia’s regime who omitted all articles regarding the equal rights of men and women.

Bushra Gohar, Chairperson Standing Committee on Women Development said in her address that “religious extremism has its roots in the state systems and policies” and the “present government is committed to abolish laws or constitutional amendments introduced by Zia-ul-Haq.”

Justice (R) Nasira Javaid Iqbal said that “today women’s rights in Pakistan are gradually deteriorating as 80% housewives are facing domestic violence which often goes unnoticed as 66% women accept it as their fate, 33% complain, while less than 5% take steps to redress the situation.” Women are often “denied any legal redress or community support despite being brutally mistreated” thus “inheritance and family laws should be brought under a Uniform code”, she added.

Women activists at the seminar termed the existing discriminatory laws an outcome of extremist policies by the Zia regime. Samina Khan, Executive Director, SUNGI (NGO) was one of those women activists who were baton charged on 12th Feb. 1983 when Punjab Women Lawyers Association in Lahore protested against Gen. Ziaul Haq’s law of evidence that reduced the testimony of women in court to half that of men” she said while giving a detailed account of the historic day.

‘Pakistani Aurat Kay Naam’ – an exhibition of paintings and prints was also part of the event at Nomad gallery which offered a rich variety of viewpoints of the artists including Tabassum Rizvi, Samreen Asif, Nahid Raza, Mussarat Nahid, Zarina Ijaz, Salma Manzoor, Farrah Rana, Nasreen Aurangzeb, Sumaira Jawad, Humera and Anjum Ayub. “Art is communication and the significance of ‘protest art’ can contribute to break down the walls between humans thereby playing a positive role in uplifting the masses and creating awareness” said Nageen Hyat, rights and social activist.

Indu Mitha, renowned classical dancer shared the historical significance of Feb. 12 with the particpants. Discussion on Hudood ordinance was led by Nasreen Azhar, an activist who suggested that “special attention must be paid to increase the level of awareness among our women so that they can stand up for their rights.” The discussion was followed by open discussion, recitation of poetry and presentation of Sufi music.

The famous poem “Aurat ki aadhi Gawahi” by Rahana Nasreen was read on the occasion which was appreciated by the participants.Naeem Mirza, Chief Operating Officer of Aurat Foundation demanded the government to immediately pass the ‘Domestic Violence Bill’ which was introduced by former information secretary PPP Sherry Rehman. Rukhshanda Naz, Director, UN Women, in her address criticized the role of religious parties in electoral politics which hinder the government to take positive steps towards women’s development and empowerment.