March Issue 2010

By | News & Politics | People | Q & A | Published 14 years ago

As part of Newsline‘s cover story “One Step Forward” on women parliamentarians and their effect on the status of women in Pakistan, we interviewed five female MNAs to find out what progress has been made in gender rights.

“Women have to make an effort to be heard and taken seriously”
– Marvi Memon


Q: Which government, in your view, has been the most woman-friendly in terms of gender-sensitive policies? State the reasons for your choice?

A: PML, since it passed the first ever woman protection legislation and gave women political empowerment through reserved seats at the national, provincial and district level. The cases of violence were statistically less than what they are now.

Q: It is generally believed that the increase in the number of women parliamentarians is mere tokenism and that a woman’s voice is generally not heeded. Is that so?

A: Women have to make an effort to be heard and taken seriously. Most active legislators happen to be women. But when it comes to be taken seriously at party level all women get treated similarly in all parties, and since they do not have direct voters behind them they are taken lightly. Thus to be taken seriously, women have to put in more effort.

Q: Parliamentarians are expected to vote along party lines. If your party’s vote conflicts with your interests as a woman, what would be your response?

A: So far this issue has not arisen but if it does, I would try and convince the party leadership to change their stance.

Q: Have you succeeded in getting your male/female colleagues in parliament to support your stance on pro-women legislation?

A: Yes, in most of the cases we have. However, sometimes we face bottlenecks from the religious lobby.

Q: Is the women parliamentary caucus set up in the present assembly making an impact? If yes, in what way?

A: Not in any tangible way, since legislation submitted by women is not taken up unanimously and fast tracked. Nor are some cases of violence against women recently identified allowed to be discussed through it.

Q: Are stories of woman parliamentarians being heckled and not given a chance to speak on the ground that they have come on reserved seats very commonplace?

A: We are given a chance to speak but whether what we say is taken into consideration is another story.

Q: Have you personally initiated the passage of any legislation designed to ameliorate the plight of women?

A: Yes, acid legislation to punish those who violate women through acid-throwing and acid control legislation.

Q: Are you satisfied with the legislation enacted by this government? What other legislation/amendments to existing legislation vis-à-vis women would you want to see in place?

A: Acid legislation.

Q: There is a common perception that all pro-woman legislation is either shot down or watered down to meet the demands of the conservative and feudal lobby in parliament. If true, is there any way to fight this?

A: Yes, it’s an attempt which is made. Better lobbying and a more proactive woman caucus approach is required.

Q: Also just enacting laws is not enough. Have you ever considered the enforcement aspect of these laws?

A: Yes, when they are not enforced I have raised this as an issue as well.

Q: Are you satisfied with the mode of election of women MPs to the reserved seats for women in the legislatures?

A: It’s a start but it needs to be improved in such a way that there is some form of voting so that we are equally empowered like the general seat MNAs.

Read all five of the MNA interviews: