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December 15, 2017

Studies blame jirga for gender discrimination, violence against women


December 15, 2017

Islamabad : A research study on ‘Jirgas’ by National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) indicates decline in the acceptance and popularity of ‘Jirga’ because of increasing awareness and media reporting on Jirga decisions that allowed violence against women for disputes settlement.

The study titled ‘Women, Violence and Jirga: Consensus and Impunity in Pakistan’ is one of three studies launched by NCSW on Thursday. The three research studies focus on representation of women officers in Pakistan’s Federal Service Commission, access to justice for survivors of sexual assault and Jirga’s role with regard to violence against women.

The event featured presentation of key findings by the researchers followed by comments from distinguished speakers to discuss various aspects of the research studies. The launch event was chaired by Justice (r) Mehta Kailash Nath Kohli. The discussion was moderated by Executive Director Shirkat Gah Farida Shaheed.

In her welcome remarks, NCSW Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz thanked all the researchers for their work. She said that for larger outreach, the Commission plans to translate research reports in Urdu and would widely disseminate the highlights with the relevant departments.

The research report ‘Prominent Invisibility: Women Officers in Pakistan’s Federal Civil Services’ by Homer Jan Baloch and Kaiser Bengali, analyses the data of women representation in public sector for year 2013.

The report reveals that women’s share amounts to meager 4.5 per cent in civil services. At higher level (grade 17-22), the percentage is less than one-fifth at 19.3 per cent. There were 92 women in grade 20, 33 in grade 21 and 5 in grade 22. The report highlights the need of affirmative measures to include more women at the higher level of bureaucracy.

The second report titled ‘Access to Justice: For Survivors of Sexual Assault’ that is conducted by Sohail Akbar Warraich and assisted by Hiba Akbar and Anum Asif Bajwa, examines cases of sexual violence with regard to the Protection of Women (Criminal Law Amendment) Act, 2006 and how higher courts’ judgments have treated these cases.

The report highlights the gender prejudice and lack of capacity of state institutions including police, prosecution, medical staff, and even the courts, often obstructing or even denying justice to survivors. It says that the sexuality of survivor remains under scrutiny. Medical and vital forensic evidence is not a priority of state or courts whereas, the general impression among law enforcement agencies is that most of these cases are fabricated by the survivors.

Research report ‘Women, Violence and Jirga: Consensus and Impunity in Pakistan’ by Nazish Brohi reflects on the evolution and contemporary role of Jirgas and its anti-women practices, its prevalence and interface with the formal legal system. The report says that Jirgas pose challenge to formal justice system as it evolves from the consensus. The issues related to Jirgas with regards to women is the bizarre nature of decisions and commercialization of Jirgas, mutation of the old concept of Jirgas and constitution of Jirgas with no representation of women. Instead of fixing the crime or criminals, the objective of Jirgas is restoring balance.

In her comments on ‘Prominent Invisibility: Women Officers in Pakistan’s Federal Civil Services,’ key discussant Federal Secretary for Human Rights Rabia Javeri Agha recommended affirmative action for creating support mechanisms for women in bureaucracy. She said that the percentage of women in public sector has increased manifolds in past few years which will reflect on higher level in the future.

As a discussant for ‘Women, Violence and Jirga: Consensus and Impunity in Pakistan,’ Senator Farhatullah Babur said that Jirgas exclude and degrade women. He suggested NCSW to form a register of the crime committed against women and name that register “Register of Embarrassment.”

In her comments on the same report, MNA Sabiha Nazir gave example of the case Mukhtar Mai and the struggle she went through to get justice. Chairperson Provincial Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) Sindh, Nuzhat Shirin said that state need to become party to all such cases. About women in bureaucracy, she identified lack of washrooms, transport and discriminatory behavior of the male staff as some of the main issues which create trouble for women in public sector.

As discussant on ‘Access to Justice: For Survivors of Sexual Assault,’ SSP Investigation for Rawalpindi Maria Mehmood admitted that gender-based violence is not the priority of the law enforcement agencies. She stressed for creating awareness around the issue in police department and judiciary.

Justice Kohli suggested making the research reports part of the training curriculum for police and judiciary. He said that things start improving when people are recruited on important posts on the basis of merit. He suggested updating the anti-sexual harassment law, strict implementation of quota and provision of basic facilities in order to enhance women representation in bureaucracy.

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