LAHORE, Pakistan: The Centre of Social Justice (CSJ) organized a Conference on the “Status of Minority Women and their Rights and Challenges” in Lahore on Tuesday in connection with International Women’s Day 2021.
The themes discussed in the Conference included socio-economic and legal rights of minority women, right to education, right to health, protection against forced conversions, and gender-based violence (GBV).
The Conference was attended by eminent scholars, economists, and legal experts, and they were of the view that millions of Pakistani women from religious minority communities contribute daily in the Country’s economy with some earning prestige in different sectors including health, education, and politics; however, yet their numbers are very low.
They were of the view that these women also continue to face grave violations such as forced conversions, abuse of blasphemy laws, domestic violence, and poverty, all of which hinder their individual and collective progress.
The Chief Executive of CSJ Peter Jacob underlined the sheer lack of official data on minority women and pointed out that the government should ensure segregated and user-friendly data on socio-economic aspects is available as early as possible.
In the session for economic and legal rights of minority women, eminent speakers including Khawar Mumtaz (former Chairperson NCSW), Jennifer Jag Jivan (Director, Christian Study Center, Rawalpindi), Fauzia Viqar (Senior Gender Advisor and Chief Executive RCMD), Nida Usman Chaudhry (Diversity and Inclusion Advocate, founder Women in Law), Sumera Shafique (Chairperson Minority Rights Committee, High Court Bar Association), and Christina Peter (Executive Director AWARD Pakistan) took part.
Zeeba Hashmi (Peace Education Consultant & founder Ibtidah for Education), Jacquoline J Austin (Assistant Professor, FC College) spoke on issues of religion in the education system; Mangla Sharma (MPA Sindh), Kalpana Devi (Additional Advocate General, SHC), Pushpa Kumari (Member, Sindh Human Rights Commission), Nabila Bhatti (human rights activist, researcher, and columnist), and Shazia George (former member PCSW) spoke on GBV and the issue of forced conversions. Asiya Nasir, MNA and minority rights activist also spoke on legal and social safeguards against forced conversions.
Meanwhile, obstetrician Dr. Ruhiyeh Muffedi emphasized awareness about the right to reproductive health for women; research analyst, Abraham Akhtar Murad discussed the Educational Attainment of Minority Women. Emerging ‘Girl Power’, was discussed together by Roshini Chahat (minority rights activist), and Kashoon Leeza (advocacy and editorial specialist).
Even though Pakistan has signed and ratified international treaties regarding the protection of the rights of women, and the United Nation’s CEDAW committee made specific recommendations after their last two reviews in 2013 and 2020, the government in Pakistan has not taken up the implementation of these recommendations.
Neither the Federal nor Provincial Ministry for Human Rights, nor the Provincial Departments of Women Development have tried to implement these recommendations.
The following recommendations were passed in the conference resolution:
- Forced faith conversions are grave human rights abuses which violate the religious freedom guaranteed in the constitution of Pakistan therefore all administrative, legal, and legislative measures should be applied to protect Minority Women from Forced Conversions and Gender-based violence.
- The minority women lag behind in literacy rate, employability in prestigious professions, equal wages, job security, etc. therefore affirmative action should be brought to make them equal in rights and as beneficiaries of opportunities.
- There should be Legislation regarding women’s equal rights in marriage and inheritance for respective communities. The existing legislation governing Hindu and Christian women should be revised and new legislation for Bahai, Sikh, Kalash, etc. should be introduced.
- Through legislative and educational measures women and girls must be ensured that they are free from physical abuse, domestic violence, and rape, or being subjected to any medical procedure without informed consent, and deprivation from reproductive autonomy and rights.
- The Federal and Provincial Governments, Ministry of Human Rights, and respective Women department must chalk out an implementation plan regarding the recommendations of the CEDAW Committee given in 2013 & 2020 review that required the government of Pakistan to “provide collected information on women facing intersecting forms of discrimination disaggregated by sex, age, disability, ethnicity, religion, and geographical location”.
- The government should gather credible data to assess the socio-economic status of minority women and publish reports on gender affairs to raise awareness about their legal, social and political rights.