ISLAMABAD (Dawn): In a most significant pro-women move in nearly four years of its life, the National Assembly unanimously passed on Thursday a government bill to create a powerful National Commission on the Status of Women as the fruit of years of efforts of a women’s caucus, overcoming some last-minute hitches that held it up for a day.
The vote came after the adoption of 22 consensus amendments agreed between the treasury and opposition benches following overnight consultations, just before the house was prorogued after an eight-day session.
With a woman of more than 15 years’ experience in working on women’s rights and “committed to the cause of women’s empowerment” as its chairperson, the commission will have two members — at least one of them being a woman — from each province, one woman member each from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, the Islamabad Capital Territory, and minorities, five ex-officio but non-voting members representing ministries of law, finance, foreign affairs, interior and the ministry concerned with women’s rights of not below BPS-20, and chairperson or a designated member of each provincial commission on women’s rights set up under provincial laws. A member must be at least 30 years of age, having experience on women’s rights for more than five years and “committed to the cause of women’s empowerment”.
The bill said chairperson and members, including ex-officio, would be appointed by the prime minister from among names recommended by the parliamentary committee from a list agreed with the leader of opposition in the National Assembly containing three names for each post – or separate lists to be sent by the two in case of difference between them.
The parliamentary committee of up to 12 members will be constituted by the National Assembly speaker with 50 per cent representation each for the treasury and opposition benches based on the strength of parties to be nominated by their respective parliamentary leaders, one-third of them being from the Senate.
FUNCTIONS: A long list of functions of the commission include examining the federal government’s policy and programmes for gender equality, women’s empowerment, political participation, representation, assessing their implementation and making suitable recommendations, reviewing all laws, rules and regulations affecting the status and rights of women and suggesting repeal, amendment or new legislation to eliminate discrimination, safeguarding and promoting the interest of women and achieving gender equality.
Other functions include sponsoring research, maintaining a database on gender issues, interacting with non-governmental organisations, mobilising grants from domestic and international agencies approved by the government, recommending signing or ratification of international instruments, inquiring complaints of violations of women’s rights, and inspecting jails.