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Government trying to introduce ‘panchayat’ system in country


May 15, 2019

Islamabad: The Chairperson, National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice, Riaz Fatyana has said the government is trying to introduce ‘panchayat’ system in the country and alternative dispute resolution laws in the parliament which will reduce burden on courts and provide transparent, cost effective and speedy justice to the people, especially to women and vulnerable groups.

Speaking at a seminar on ‘Understanding Barriers for Women’s Access to Justice in Pakistan’, jointly organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and the UN Women on Tuesday, Fatyana said there are so many laws to protect rights of women, some of them are even contradictory to each other, which requires consolidation coupled with establishing a proper process to avoid conflict and providing immediate relief to the women in distress.

He said lack of awareness among women about their rights, prevailing illiteracy, growing poverty, rising inequality and unnecessary delays in dispensation of justice necessitate the need reforms in civil and criminal court procedures, especially for ensuring women’s access to justice. He said the proposal of Qazi courts is also under consideration of incumbent government, where victim don’t require lawyers and will be provided with affordable and speedy justice. “The Council of Islamic Ideology need to have women’s representation as the Council takes up issues, mostly related to women,” Fatyana added.

Chairperson, National Council on the Status of the Women (NCSW) Khawar Mumtaz said any dispute resolution system or justice system introduced by the government should be based on consensus and must be backed by a legal and regulatory framework. She said the scale of the issue of women’s access to justice is much bigger than we imagine. “The challenge for us is to make our society more inclusive, especially for our minorities, who are vulnerable due to lack of access to justice.” She said violence and fear of violence are the biggest barriers for women victims to get access to justice, where conviction rate is already negligible. “The Commission has identified three key areas for intervention to ensure women’s access to justice. They include: Enhancement of women’s participation at the highest decision-making levels, especially in the courts and other state institutions, Economic empowerment of women and combating all forms of violence against women.” Former Judge and advocate, Riffat Butt said all social, economic and legal barriers are interconnected and are embedded in our traditional social and religious system, which discourage women to raise their voice in getting access to justice. She urged the government and relevant authorities for the most advanced interpretation of our social and religious customs, norms, values and laws. She emphasized the need for reforming the institutions involved in dispensation of justice, which are incompetent and lack capacity to resolve complex issues. She also called upon the government for ensuring uniformity of the law across the country. International conventions on women’s access to justice should also be ratified and after necessary legislation should be implemented at the earliest, she added.

Senior Research Associate, SDPI Rabia Manzoor said that though women’s access to justice has been improved over the time, but there are some social, legal and economic challenges which are hindering women’s access to justice. She said Pakistan ranked among the second-worst out of 149 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report and ranked at 117 out of 126 countries in Rule of Law ranking by the World Justice Project. “Whereas, in 2015 only, 65 women were burnt in acid attacks, 1,515 women were raped and 713 were murdered in honour killings, while a large number of cases were unreported. These facts show the scale and significance of the issue, which must be considered by the government on a priority basis,” she added. Rabia said lack of knowledge about legal procedures, financial resources, inaccessibility of legal institutions, female staff and model police stations for women are some of the major barriers for women’s access to justice in Pakistan.

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