Constitution ensured women’s rights in Pakistan

Ziaur Rahman Tajik Advocate

Women’s rights are rights and entitlements claimed for women and girls worldwide, women are entitled to enjoy the same human rights and fundamental freedom as other individuals. women are entitled to live free from violence and discrimination. But across the globe women and girls face discrimination based on sex and gender. violation of women’s and girls’ rights is a global problem and it knows no territorial, religious or cultural limitation. Gender inequality underpins many problems and disproportionately affects women and girls which subsequently affects their children, family system and their well-being. Women should be enabled to live without fear of gender-based violence including rape, sexual harassment and violence and should not be compelled to force abortion, forced marriage and forced pregnancy.

In gender-based violence, violent acts are committed against women and happen to them in disproportionate numbers. Throughout history, sexual violence and infringement of their rights have been used as a weapon of war against them. The perpetrator is found in every society and all social classes and the majority of them are male. The causes of women’s rights violations need to be eliminated, to prevent further violence and enable them to live a free life.

Under the doctrine of feminism, women are entitled to equal social, political, economic and educational rights and are entitled to the full enjoyment of their rights on an equal footing with men. Pakistan is the 6th most populated country in the world and the population of women in Pakistan is 49% with a high rate of fertility of about 4 children per woman. Education is the basic right of every woman because education is the progressive development of own ignorance and it brings a proper change in behaviour. But unfortunately, most females are neither allowed nor they can get an education due to lack of transport, wrong religious perception, early marriage, lack of infrastructure, absence of safe environment and security concerns, lack of facilities of schools particularly colleges and shortage of teachers.

Violence Against Women and girls including rape, honour killing, acid attack, domestic violence, harassment at the workplace etc is a violation of women’s rights and the Istanbul convention also recognises and considers it a major obstacle towards the achievement of equality between men and women.

In Pakistan, the honour killing rate of females is about 1000 per year besides gender discrimination, Harassment, sexual abuse, lack of education, and dowery harassment and every year a considerable number of females do not enter into contract marriage due to non-arrangements of dowery articles for them by their parents due to financial constraints.

The Constitution of Pakistan also guarantees several rights to women. Articles 25(3) and 26(2) allow the state to make special provisions for the protection of women and children.

Similarly, articles 26 and 27 also provide for equal access to public places and employment in the public and private sectors. Article 25 and 35 also provides that there shall be no discrimination based on sex alone and the state shall ensure the participation of women in all sphere of National life. Article 32 further provides to make special provisions for the representation of women in local govt and article 34 directs the state shall take appropriate measures to enable women to participate in all spheres of life and social activities.

Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies all rights and freedom equally to men and women and prohibits discrimination based on sex. similarly, the European Convention on Human Rights also forbids violence against women, including domestic and sexual violence.

In Pakistan casting the vote is a constitutional right but in some areas, women have been effectively prohibited from casting vote due to their rigid customs and tradition and because of this reason in some areas election results are declared null and void by the election commission of Pakistan in some cases. Under the Pakistan penal code, several severe punishments have been provided for different offences against women.

Under section 509 insulting the modesty of women or sexually harassing them is punishable with three years of punishment and 5 lacs fine. Section 376 offence of rape is punishable by 25 years of punishment with further embargo under section 402(D) of the criminal procedure code on the govt that the provincial govt shall not remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed under section 376 of Pakistan penal code to an accused person.

Meanwhile under section 354-A of use of criminal force on women and stripping her of her clothes and exposing her to public view is punishable with death or life imprisonment. Section 311 also provides punishment for honour killing and also made it a non-compoundable offence under section 345 of the criminal procedure code.

Moreover, Section 484-A provides punishment for the accused who deprived women of their inheritance rights. Section 310-A provide punishment for giving females in marriage orBadla-e-Salaah, Wanni or Sawara. Under sections 498 -B and 498-c forced marriage and marriage with the Quran are made punishable.

Under section 52 of the criminal procedure code a woman accused of an offence shall be searched by a woman with strict regard to decency. Under the provisions of Anti women, practices Acts several oppressive and discriminatory customs practiced are declared cognizable offences with deterrent punishment.

Under the Acid Control and Acid crime prevention Act 2010, the offence of throwing acid on the body and face of women is punishable. The offender throws acid in the face of a female to keep them permanently maim rather than kill. Through the acid attack, the skin tissue burns and melts and the skin on the face are severely damaged.

Several women’s rights are protected under the Protection Against Harassment of Women in the Workplace Act 2010. And under the KP Enforcement of women property Act 2019 property rights of women are protected and their property grievances are decided within 60 days and the decision is implemented in 7 days.

Under Muslim family laws ordinance, Family court Act and Family court Rule several rights of women are provided and protected by the family courts through expeditious justice. Under the Family court Act the family cases shall be decided within 6 months by the family courts and in very limited cases right of appeal is provided before the Distt Judges against the decision of family courts to safeguard the female from the rigour of complication and technicalities of law and because of this reason the provision of Qanoon-e-shahadat and civil procedure code are excluded from the proceeding before the family court.

Under the General law, a suit is filed before the court where the cause of action arises or where the defendant resides but in a family case under rule 6 the suit is in a place where the wife ordinarily resides irrespective of arising of the cause of action and resident of husband.
In constitutional, service, civil, criminal and family laws several rights and protection are provided to women in Pakistan but they have not enjoyed the fruits of their rights and are consistently violated. Women faced several serious consequences like dismissal from service, shunted out of their homes, divorced, defamed, and being deprived of custody of children forcefully when they agitated and claimed their rights from those who are in power.

All such rights of the women are violated due to the lack of a strong check and balance system, negligence of govt authorities in implementing the law, none performance of duties by the law enforcement agencies, and delayed and expensive dispensation of justice by the courts. otherwise, women can play an effective and important role in the social and economic stability of families and countries.