22 May 2007
General Assembly
WOM/1628

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

781st & 782nd Meetings (AM & PM)


EXPERT COMMITTEE EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER STEREOTYPES, VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, AS IT


TAKES UP PAKISTAN’S FIRST REPORT ON COMPLIANCE WITH ANTI-DISCRIMINATION TREATY


Pakistan’s first ever report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women since it ratified the Women’s Convention in 1996 was the product of an elaborate national consultative process, during which many drafts were prepared, modified and refined, Pakistan’s delegation said today as the expert body examined the country’s compliance with the treaty.


Presenting Pakistan’s initial, second and third combined report, the Secretary of the Ministry of Women Development, Mahmood Salim Mahmood, said that the report had been discussed at many inter-ministerial and civil society forums.  It was displayed on the Ministry’s website and comments from the public via e-mail were invited through advertisements in the press.  A member of his delegation added that a conscious decision had been taken that, rather than skirt the issues, everything concerning implementation would be put before the Committee in New York.


Mr. Mahmood highlighted some specific measures undertaken by the Government at policy, administrative and institutional levels to eliminate discrimination against women and empower them.  A set of priority actions was formulated under the National Action Plan of 1998, in an effort to facilitate women’s participation in all spheres of life and ensure protection of their rights within the family and society.  In 2002, the first national policy for women’s empowerment was formulated, elaborating key policy measures for their social, economic, and political advancement.


He said that violence against women was a global concern that was entrenched in a stereotypical mindset, and Pakistan was no exception.  A traditional mindset was difficult to change, but affirmative action had been taken, which sought to bring about the necessary attitudinal change.  The national policy for development and empowerment emphasized, among other things, the adoption of a zero-tolerance policy, and declared that “honour killing” was murder.  It also sought to revise legal procedures, introduce positive legislation on domestic violence and reform, and establish family protection programmes at the district level to provide women with legal and psychological counselling and referrals to medical and legal aid.


In compliance with the policy of zero tolerance, he said that a law against “honour killing” was passed by Parliament.  Among other measures, the Protection of Women Act of 2006 was adopted, sexual harassment in the government and private sector was made a punishable offence, the Citizenship Act of 1951 was amended, and a bill on domestic violence was “under construction”.  Additionally, initiatives had been taken to support the Government’s efforts in assisting women victims of violence.  Those included a gender crime cell created by the Ministry of Interior in the National Police Bureau to monitor and address all sorts of crimes against women, and a human rights wing under the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights to address human rights violations and trends, especially those affecting women.


Picking up on the theme of violence against women, one expert welcomed the new legislation intended to criminalize honour killings, but drew attention to the report of Pakistan’s National Human Rights Commission, which stated that hundreds of women were killed in the name of honour in Pakistan in 2004, 2005 and 2006 after the adoption of that law.  She said there had also been reports of acid attacks against women, murders, rape, and gang rape, as well as of women forcibly divorced and even killed for giving birth to girls instead of boys.  She noted the measures taken against such violence against women, but asked if those were enough in a population of more than 150 million people.


The delegation said that, after independence in 1947, the country became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, inheriting traditions and tribes that were centuries old.  There had been a significant reduction in honour killings.  “Yes, the issue is there, but it is not as significant as reported from 2004 to 2006.”  To kill the girl child in Pakistan was “unimaginable -- it is no more there in our society”, one delegate assured the Committee.


As far as the increased number of honour killings, another member added, those crimes had been committed over the years and had gone unreported.  Since the Government had put bills in place, more and more women were coming forward and reporting the crimes.  Hence, it was not the number of cases that had increased, but the number of women accessing justice.


An expert from Egypt said that, unfortunately, dangerous stereotypes were prevalent in “our Islamic societies”.  There was a great deal of abuse of the Islamic religion and a misinterpretation of the role of women, which ran counter to sharia law.  In Egypt and Pakistan, there was an increase in that kind of stereotyping.  She wanted to know how the Government dealt with that phenomenon and corrected those stereotypes, especially those related to religion.  Specifically, she asked whether there were advocates trying to disseminate the “real tenet” of Islam, especially about the role of women in Muslim society.


A member of the delegation said he wished to announce with “great pride and clarity” that the basic concept of Islam and the practice of Muslim life guaranteed, much more than the spirit of the Convention, the equal treatment of women on par with men.  Another member said that individuals and organizations were communicating the true role of Muslim women to society through various means, including print and electronic media and theatres.  The outreach touched rural and far-flung areas.  The delegation also explained that a revision of school curricula, particularly textbooks, was under way, to eliminate stereotypes.


Along with the head of the delegation, the other participants were Parveen Qadir Agha, development consultant and former Secretary of the Ministry of Women Development; Syrus Qazi, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Huma Chughtai, legal and gender expert; Mehrene Ishaq, lawyer; and Syed Zafar Hasan Mahmood, Project Coordinator, Ministry of Women Development.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 23 May, to consider Mozambique’s combined initial and second periodic report.


Background


The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this morning to consider Pakistan’s combined initial, second and third periodic report (document CEDAW/C/PAK/1-3).


Heading Pakistan’s delegation was Mahmood Salim Mahmood, Secretary, Ministry of Women Development.  Also participating in the delegation were Parveen Qadir Agha, development consultant and former Secretary of the Ministry of Women Development; Syrus Qazi, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Huma Chughtai, legal and gender expert; Mehrene Ishaq, lawyer; and Syed Zafar Hasan Mahmood, Project Coordinator, Ministry of Women Development.


Presentation of Report


Introducing the report, MAHMOOD SALIM MAHMOOD, Secretary of the Ministry of Women Development, highlighted some specific measures that the Government had taken to eliminate discrimination against women and empower them.  Those measures were at policy, administrative and institutional levels and included, among others, a set of priority action formulated under the National Action Plan of 1998.  The Plan sought to facilitate women’s participation in all spheres of life and ensure protection of their rights within the family and society.  In 2002, the first national policy for the empowerment of women had been formulated, elaborating key policy measures for women’s social, economic, and political empowerment.


He said that violence against women was a global concern.  The phenomenon was entrenched in a stereotypical mindset, and Pakistan was no exception.  A traditional mindset was difficult to change, but affirmative action had been taken in that regard, which sought to create a conducive environment to bring about the necessary attitudinal change.  The national policy for development and empowerment specifically contained a section on violence against women.  It emphasized, among other things, adopting a zero tolerance policy, declaring “honour killing” as murder, reviewing and revising police and “medico” legal procedures, introducing positive legislation on domestic violence and reform, and establishing family protection programmes at the district level to provide women with legal and psychological counselling and referrals to medical and legal aid mechanisms.


In compliance with the policy of zero tolerance, he said that the following measures had been taken, among others:  a law against “honour killing” was passed by Parliament; the Protection of Women Act of 2006 had been adopted; the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Convention on Trafficking in Women was adopted; sexual harassment at the workplace, both in the government and private sector, had been made a punishable offence by a Cabinet decision; the original citizenship act of 1951 was amended in 2001 providing for nationality to the children of foreign spouses; and a bill on domestic violence was “under construction”.  Additionally, further initiatives had been taken to support the Government’s efforts in assisting women victims of violence.  Those included a gender crime cell created by the Ministry of Interior in the National Police Bureau to monitor and address all sorts of crimes against women, and a human rights wing under the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights to monitor and address human rights violations and trends with special reference to women.  Also, the district sessions judge was now mandated to call for an inquiry in all custodial rape cases.


He said that institutional reforms had included the establishment in 2000 of the National Commission on the Status of Women, and the gender reform action plan in May 2005, which envisaged reforms in such key areas as political participation of women, women’s employment in the public sector, and a gender responsive budgeting mechanism.  Jail reforms were being instituted, with a special focus on female victims.  Those reforms included the establishment of separate women’s jails, improving the physical environment, and the protection of women and juveniles from abuse, and their eventual rehabilitation.  Through assistance from the Asian Development Bank, a comprehensive programme to improve access to the justice programme was being implemented, with a focus on reducing delays in the courts.  With assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), a three-year project on gender mainstreaming had been launched.  Bearing in mind the need to develop gender responsive budgeting, the Government had incorporated various gender-sensitive amendments into its medium-term budgetary framework to be used by three pilot ministries, namely education, health and population welfare.


Some major challenges included the low literacy rate among women, although literacy was now showing an upward trend, he said.  The education sector reforms action plan had raised school enrolment, with noticeable improvement in the completion rates for girls through grade 5.  With positive trends and the right policies in place, the Government was confident that soon the girl children of today would grow up to be the educated and prosperous young Pakistani women of tomorrow.  Women’s economic empowerment was the prime aspiration of the Government, conscious that women were the “poorest of the poor” and that “poverty has a feminine face”.  Thus, a number of income generation projects, like the “crop maximization project”, had been launched, among other initiatives.  The First Women’s Bank was a unique bank being run by women for women.  Additionally, women’s employment schemes were being developed and many steps had been taken to facilitate women’s role in the country’s development at all levels.  Those had been accompanied by legal measures such as ratification of the International Labour Organization’s Convention 100 on Non-Discrimination of Wages on the Basis of Sex.  Achievements in women’s political empowerment were unprecedented, he said.


Experts’ Questions and Comments


CORNELIS FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, raised the issue of Pakistan’s declaration on accession to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Although it was called a declaration, it was a reservation that related to all of the Convention’s articles and obligations.  The declaration seemed to say that, if there would be a conflict between the Convention and the country’s Constitution, the Constitution would prevail.  Interpreted in that way, the declaration would be contrary to international law.  Pakistan was arguing that the declaration did not intend to go against the Convention’s purpose, but had been needed at the time in order to accede to the Convention.


What exactly was the scope of the declaration, he asked.  The Committee would welcome the day that conditions were right for Pakistan to withdraw its declaration.  It was also looking forward to the day that Pakistan would accede to the Optional Protocol.  Regarding the statement that the issue of accession would be taken up at the right time in the framework of wider gender equality policies, he asked for a more precise idea of when the conditions would be right for Pakistan to accede to the Optional Protocol.  His question was based on the relevance of the individual communication procedure, not as an end in itself, but as a means to further strengthen women’s rights.


NAELA MOHAMED GABR, expert from Egypt, thanked the delegation for its frankness and objectivity in its presentation.  She specifically wanted a description of the relationship between three different organs, namely the Ministry of Women Development, the National Committee and the Federal Ombudsman, including the law governing those three bodies.  She also wanted to know what financial allocations were given to those three organs and what relationship they had with civil society.  Pakistan was a huge country, and it was important to know how that relationship was organized.  Also, how did the country balance its obligations under the Convention and Muslim law?


HEISOO SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, said she was glad to hear that Pakistan took its obligations under the Convention seriously.  She hoped that was true.  That commitment should be shown, not only by words but by fully implementing the Convention.  She was worried about the definition of discrimination in the Constitution.  Constitutional guarantees were not enough.  Legislation was needed to incorporate the definition of discrimination against women as defined in article 1 of the Convention.  How had the Government reached out to women regarding amendments to the law?  People needed to know that they could access the courts.


FERDOUS ARA BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, said she had questions about the report’s preparation, including whether there had been consultations with the country’s main non-governmental organizations and the Parliamentary Standing Committee.  What mechanism existed to promote partnership between the Government and non-governmental organizations, as well as inter-ministerial partnership to create an enabling environment for monitoring the Convention?  What steps had the Government taken to repeal discriminatory laws, such as the law of evidence?  She also mentioned the issue of Nilofar Bakhtiar, Pakistan’s Tourism Minister, who had reportedly resigned after appearing in a photograph in France with a man.


TIZIANA MAIOLO, expert from Italy, said her question was basically political.  The Government was trying to change things, but without causing socio-political imbalances.  Further clarification was needed on that.


DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ, expert from Croatia and Committee Chair, noted that Pakistan had been able to withdraw its reservation under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Would it follow that example in connection with withdrawal of reservations regarding the Women’s Convention?  States parties were obligated to incorporate the Convention into all its domestic laws.  While Pakistan’s Constitution proclaimed equal rights, laws enacted in Pakistan could not contravene constitutional provisions.  There were different views among the population on whether some laws were in line with the Constitution.  What mechanism was available to challenge the laws that were not in line with the Constitution and the Convention?


Delegation’s Response


Mr. MAHMOOD reviewed the process of adoption of legislation.  A bill was drafted in consultation with the concerned ministry and taken to the Cabinet, after which, it went to both houses of Parliament to be debated.  After thorough debate there, it was considered by all members of Parliament.  Then, once one house passed the bill by a majority vote, it went on to the next house.  If it was passed, it went to the President to be enacted or not.  There was no discrimination built into the process.


He explained that the Constitution guaranteed the equal rights of women in Pakistan.  Twice, the country had had a female Prime Minister, and there were presently 72 women in the National Assembly.  He reviewed several additional statistics, reminding the experts that no law could be made or passed in Pakistan that was incompatible with the Koran, or basic law of Islam.  That religion, however, provided for the respect for and equal rights of women.


Another member of the delegation reviewed the relationship between the different organs of the State, specifically, the ministries, the Ombudsman and the National Commission on the Status of Women.  The latter had been set up by the Government to provide monitoring, as well as advise the Ministry of Women Development.  That relationship had been very active.  Reservations to the Convention were being examined.  In addition, the relationship between the Government and civil society organizations was quite active, especially with the Ministry of Women Development.


Mr. MAHMOOD added to a further question that the Standing Committee was a watchdog -- the ears and eyes of the Ministry.


Another member of the delegation said the preparation of the report had been the most transparent reporting on any United Nations convention so far.  A conscious decision had been taken that, rather than skirt the issues, everything would be before the Committee in New York.  Once a preliminary draft was prepared, it was sent to non-governmental organizations, particularly those with a strong position on women’s rights.  Those organizations were invited to consultations in December 2004.  Then, national consultations were held.  Thorough discussions were held on every paragraph of the report, and a frank and thorough exchange of views ensued.  Participants managed to narrow their differences and reach consensus language.


He said that paragraph 89 in the report, dealing with family life and education, had been particularly difficult.  The State party was required to report to the Committee under the treaty’s article 5 on whether sex education was included in school curricula.  Some people had said the draft report had not gone far enough; others said there should be no mention of that at all.  Finally, a paragraph on family life and education was included.  The amended draft was sent to the partners, followed by a second consultation in December 2005.  Then, the report went to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, where it was thoroughly debated.  Afterwards, the report was sent to the Prime Minister.


Another member, responding to what he perceived as the Committee’s “great concern” over the definition of discrimination, said that Pakistan had a basic legal position, and it had been advantageous to join the Convention, as it augmented the objective of the Constitution.  The latter document touched on several aspects of discrimination against women, and “not just by accident”.  The Convention’s spirit and that of the Constitution were complementary and helped to achieve equality.


He said he had heard concern expressed this morning about implementation of the Convention in light of the Islamic, or Muslim, code of conduct.  He wished to announce with “great pride and clarity” that the basic concept of Islam and the practice of Muslim life guaranteed, much more than the spirit of the Convention, the equal treatment of women on par with men.


As for why Pakistan had not signed the Optional Protocol, he said the communication it embodied was not really an issue in Pakistan; the Government of Pakistan was enthusiastic -- in fact, overly enthusiastic -- to receive suggestions from its citizens and take them up.


Another member of the delegation, replying to a question about how the “common woman” in Pakistan knew about the laws and the Convention, said there was outreach through the media and an open media policy.  There were many private channels in which the Government “has no say”.


To the question about the resignation of the female Tourism Minister, she said that had been based on political decisions and had nothing to do with the photograph.


The other member of the delegation added that the report had been posted on the Internet and publicized in newspapers.  Any Pakistani citizen could read it.


As for access to the courts, men and women were familiar with the district courts, and they knew the magistrates and council heads, another delegation member said.  The media also played a big role, and information kiosks, though still in need of strengthening, directed women as to where to go to access the courts.


Experts’ Questions and Comments


SAISUREE CHUTIKUL, expert from Thailand, asked for more information on the national plan, which covered the period up to 2013.  Basic problems remained, including the issue of registering births and marriages, which prevented women’s access to many basic services.  She also asked for clarification regarding the differences between the national plan and the newly launched gender reform action plan.  She asked the Government to describe its plans to build the capacity of the national mechanisms.  Did the Women’s Ministry work closely with the National Commission and did that Commission include the participation of non-governmental organizations?


VIOLETA NEUBAUER, expert from Slovenia, noted that, despite progress in setting up machinery for the advancement of women, many aspects in regard to the national machinery and its operational capacity remained a source of concern.  She was particularly concerned about the status, authority and political recognition of the national machinery.  In that regard, she noted that sufficient financial and human resources were basic preconditions for fulfilling the task assigned to the machinery for women’s advancement.  What was the total number of staff in the Women’s Ministry, including women in decision-making positions?  She also asked for information on existing coordinating structures within the Government and recently established provincial units.  She also had questions regarding women’s low representation in government.  What actions had been taken or were being planned to strengthen the capacities of Government officials and civil servants to fulfil the provisions of the Women’s Convention.


HANNA BEATE SCHÖPP-SCHILLING, expert from Germany, said that, while she welcomed civil society participation, the final responsibility for writing the report rested with the Government.  She was impressed by efforts at law reform outlined in the report and the delegation’s oral statement.  She wondered, however, whether there were other discriminatory provisions in Pakistan’s laws.  Was there a law reform commission to review all existing laws in Pakistan and did it have a time frame for amending the laws?


On article 3, she said she was concerned that Pakistani women were not able to enjoy their citizenship rights as a number of them did not have national identity cards.  She wanted to know the number of women without national identity cards.  What were the Government’s plans with regard to giving identity cards to its women, both in urban and rural areas?  The national identity card issue was a very serious and basic one that needed to be addressed without delay.


FUMIKO SAIGA, expert from Japan, said she wanted more information on the linkage between the gender plan with the earlier national plan of action.  She also asked about the National Commission, including who chaired the Commission.  Had the focal points established in line ministries been appointed for the purpose of drafting the report?


Delegation’s Response


Responding, Mr. MAHMOOD said the main function of the National Commission on the Status of Women, created in 2002, was to provide amendments to existing laws.  Three secretaries were ex officio members of the Commission on the Status of Women.  The Commission was independent and autonomous in all its functions.  Due to certain constraints, however, staffing had yet to be provided.


On the gender reform action plan, he noted that it was a basic document created after the national plan of action in 2005.  The gender reform action plan had been provided to Pakistan’s 111 districts.  The national plan’s implementation was being monitored.  The Women’s Ministry lacked proper staffing and faced certain constraints, however.  The Ministry’s mandate was one of advocacy, support and facilitation.  Other ministries, such as health and education, worked independently.  Staff and other financial resources had been requested for the ministry.  The Women’s Ministry had already accomplished much beyond the expectations of the people, especially women.  The Ministry, although small, was funded by foreign funding and was ready to address the problems facing women in Pakistan.


Regarding birth registration, another member of the delegation said the national database organization was active in the area of registration.  With the country’s upcoming elections, Pakistani society was geared up towards registering.  Mobile units were being sent throughout the districts to ensure registration.


Another member of the delegation added that, after signing the Convention, the Government had asked all government departments and divisions to identify gender focal points.  Also, two- to three-person units were being established in each ministry to assist them in reviewing the laws and identifying gender gaps.


Another speaker noted that federal ministries were not implementation bodies but policymaking ones.  Implementation was carried out at the local level.  In the last six years, the provision of financial resources had improved.  Capacity-building was a long process that could not be accomplished in a short time.  The National Commission was a consultative body drawn on the expertise of various segments of society.  On the issue of law-making, she noted that any citizen could initiate an action to amend existing law.


Another member of the delegation said the Government was committed to removing any discriminatory provisions in the law.  She was pleased to announce reforms in the 1961 family law relating to equal access to divorce, as well as changes to the criminal act making rape a crime.  Legislation was under constant review.


Experts’ Comments and Questions


Ms. ŠIMONOVIĆ, expert from Croatia and Committee Chair, noting the 5 per cent quota for women in government service, asked for an explanation since implementation of the quota was not uniform across the provinces, two of which did not even accept the quota.  Was it possible that some provinces were not following direction from the Government?  Had the quota been established by law, and how could the Government provide temporary special measures which all government structures must follow?


Delegation’s Response


Mr. MAHMOOD informed the expert that the Cabinet had in fact taken a decision to raise the quota to 10 per cent across the board for all federal government services.  As far as the provinces were concerned, the quotas were faithfully followed with respect to the federal Government.


Another member added that, not only had the quota been raised, but the President had recently announced that he would like to raise it as high as 25 per cent or even to 50 per cent, but that that system would require appropriate capacity.  Capacity-building was a lengthy procedure, to which the Government was fully committed.  Women had started scoring the highest on the competitive exam, and, hopefully, the delegation would be able to report back to the Committee next time that women’s share in public service had grown substantially.


Experts’ Comments and Questions


Regarding violence against women, PRAMILA PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, asked if the gender-sensitive statistic organizations were also compiling data on such violence.  She had been pleased to learn of the Government’s commitment to address violence against women given the very high prevalence of that phenomenon.  According to independent reports, some 70 to 90 per cent of the women in Pakistan fell victim to such violence.  A bill to combat it was only “under construction”.  She asked what priority was being accorded to its passage and enactment, and for some details on its content.  Also, were protective measures for the women victims envisaged?


Ms. GABR, expert from Egypt, said that, unfortunately, dangerous stereotypes were prevalent in “our Islamic societies”.  There was a great deal of abuse of the Islamic religion and a misinterpretation of the role of women, which ran counter to sharia law.  In Egypt and Pakistan, there was an increase in that kind of stereotyping.  How did the Government deal with that phenomenon?  How did it correct those stereotypes, especially those related to religion?  Were there advocates trying to disseminate the “real tenet” of Islam, especially as regarding the role of women in Muslim society?  She also asked about training of those in charge of judicial personnel.


MARIA REGINA TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, reminded the delegation about the treaty’s article 5 concerning the State’s obligation to promote a culture of change about the role of women and men.  In that regard, she asked how much that sort of change was needed in Pakistan and how the Government envisaged that change would be accelerated.  While she welcomed the new legislation intended to criminalize honour killings, the report of Pakistan’s national human rights commission had stated that hundreds of women were killed in the name of honour in 2004, 2005, and 2006 after the adoption of that law.  Had all criminals guilty of those murders been prosecuted?  She had information that that was not always the case, that there was leniency towards those crimes.


She said there had also been reports of acid attacks against women, murders, rape, and gang rape, as well as of women forcibly divorced and even killed for giving birth to girls instead of boys.  That was amazing when everyone knew it was men who determined the sex of the child.  She noted the measures taken against such violence against women, but asked if those were enough in a population of more than 150 million people.  Should the Government be even more proactive in changing beliefs and behaviours that allowed for such actions?  An intensive, ongoing awareness-raising campaign was needed, aimed at full respect for women’s rights and dignity, beginning with the early days at school, she urged.


Delegation’s Response


After independence in 1947, the country became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, inheriting traditions and tribes that were centuries old, a member of the delegation said.  There had been a significant reduction in honour killings.  “Yes, the issue is there, but it is not as significant as reported from 2004 to 2006.”  To kill the girl child in Pakistan was “unimaginable -- it is no more there in our society”, he assured the Committee.


As far as the increased number of honour killings, another member added, those crimes had been committed over the years and had gone unreported.  Since the Government had put bills in place, more and more women were coming forward and reporting the crimes.  Hence, it was not the number of cases that had increased, but the number of women accessing justice.


As for whether violence against women was being monitored, she said that a gender crime cell was working with the Ministry of the Interior and National Bureau of Police and was constantly monitoring the reported cases.  It was addressing the issues and communicating the cases to the relevant local governments and departments, which investigated the cases and communicated them to the local police stations.  She acknowledged that “the system may not be as strong as it should be”.


She said that individuals and organizations were communicating the true role of Muslim women to society through various means, including print and electronic media and theatres.  The outreach touched rural and far-flung areas.


There was training for judges through a federal judicial academy and provincial academies, which had models for gender sensitization, the member said, adding that she was among the visiting faculty training the judges.  Not only were newly inducted judges trained, but all levels of judges.


As for whether the measures being undertaken were enough, she said, “measures were never enough”.  Society kept on growing and new issues kept on emerging, with new strategies seeking to keep up.  Under the Offences of Zina, the crime of rape could only be established if there were four Muslim adult male witnesses or the accused himself confessed to the crime.  Rape required circumstantial evidence and a medical check-up; it was a crime against a person.  Adultery, which was a crime against society, required four witnesses, she said.


Another member explained that the domestic violence bill was already in the Assembly, and that, yes, it aspired to target the issue through five main areas, including inheritance and forced marriages.  The bill was a top priority and the Government sought to ensure that it became an act “as soon as reasonably possible”.  Regarding the penalty for adultery, there were two separate pieces of legislation available to all citizens.  No one was under an obligation to file a claim under the Hudood Ordinance of 1979.  She had data on acid victims and other crimes against women from April 2006 to March 2007, which she would be happy to circulate to Committee members after the meeting.


Another member of the delegation said that efforts were being made to redress stereotypes.  The Government had asked the media to portray men and women differently in television dramas, for example, and now women were also shown as heads of households.  Also, a review of school curricula would soon produce a revised syllabus.  Adding to her colleague’s response to the training of the judiciary, she said that police personnel and doctors were also being trained.


Experts’ Comments and Questions


SILVIA PIMENTEL, expert from Brazil, asked for more content and a timeline on the domestic violence bill.  Noting that the report on page 31 stated that the main challenge was changing public perceptions in all government policies, particularly in education, the media and the information sector, she asked for information about the Government’s plans in that regard.  She also had read that the national Human Rights Commission of Pakistan had stated that honour killings were increasing, including in urban centres.  She sought more information on that and on the Government’s commitment to combat the phenomenon.  Also, she asked if there was a law or bill abolishing all parallel legal or quasi-legal systems, including the sharia court, so as to ensure a uniform and integrated legal system in the country.


Ms. SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, said there were harmful media operating in Pakistan, such as illegal radio stations, which incited people to commit violence against women, declaring, for example, contraceptives as “un-Islamic”.  That was “appalling” to her, and she asked what the Government was doing about it.


What about the custom of “court-like practices” that would order two teenage girls to be killed because they visited their grandfathers without telling their family, she asked.  She also asked if there were separate complaint cells in all districts, and whether the number of women who went to police stations to report incidents of violence and abuse against them had increased.  As for the crisis centres, she had heard that no one knew how to access them and that they were poorly managed, so that the women did not receive “real counselling”.  Additionally, she had learned that women with disabilities had insufficient access to the shelters and did not receive the necessary assistance.


MARY SHANTHI DAIRIAM, expert from Malaysia, asked what efforts had been taken to eliminate violence against women, especially since she had been told that, when women in Pakistan sought redress from violence, they were discriminated against throughout every stage of the process, from reporting to the police and throughout the entire justice system.


Delegation’s Response


Mr. MAHMOOD explained that when the British were ruling the subcontinent, they had earmarked certain tribal areas, which had their own laws.  The law administering the tribal areas still existed.  Jirga referred to a cluster of elderly people of a locality where decisions were taken by consensus and became binding.  The jirga system was restricted to only tribal areas and was becoming narrower each day.  The Government would be opening crisis centres in some 55 districts in the next budget.  Women were being encouraged to access the centres, which were providing all kinds of services.


He assured the Committee that the practice of honour killing was not increasing, but rather, decreasing.  There might be some misunderstanding in that regard.  Pakistan now had an independent media, which was reporting cases of honour killing.  That had not been the case in the past.


Another member of the delegation explained that the jirga system was an alternative mechanism of dispute resolution.  No citizen was under compulsion to report a case to the jirga.  It was an easy method of dispute resolution as the costs were negligible, making it a popular system at the local level.  Regarding honour crimes, she noted that section 401 of the Penal Code had already been amended, mentioning honour crimes by name.  Any offence committed in the defence of honour would be punishable by the death penalty or life in prison.  The punishment could not be less than 10 years.  Regarding the reported increase in honour crimes, she asked the experts to consider another report that noted a marked decrease in honour crimes between April 2006 and 2007.


Another member described the jirga as indigenous alternative resolution bodies that applied only to the tribal belt.  Jirgas were used to resolve the disputes between two parties and had never been meant for larger disputes, which were always meant to be reported to local police stations.  Separate complaints cells had been created in almost all stations.  Crisis centres were now called women’s centres.  Women were encouraged to access the centres, which also provided rehabilitation and training.  She added that websites had been created so that people could monitor court cases.


Regarding women with disabilities, another member of the delegation noted that the Ministry of Special Education dealt with that issue.  Some 2.3 per cent of the population was disabled.  The Government provided special schools for their rehabilitation and training.  It had also enacted a special employment law in that regard.


Experts’ Questions and Comments


Ms. BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, said Pakistan had been described as a country of destination, origin and transit of trafficked persons.  Had progress been made in regard to trafficking?  She also asked about the punishment for the perpetrators of trafficking.  Noting that many Bangladeshi women were being trafficked to Pakistan as sex slaves and for prostitution, she asked for details on the remedies provided under existing laws for women being trafficked.  The report mentioned several shelters.  Were they accessible to trafficked women of foreign origin?


Ms. CHUTIKUL, expert from Thailand, noted that, while the Government had in 2002 promulgated the prevention of trafficking ordinance which contained a clear definition of human trafficking, there seemed to be some confusion regarding concepts such as smuggling, illegal migrants and trafficking.  While they shared some linkages, those concepts were different.  Were there provisions in the law for heavier punishment for government officers involved in the crime?  What about the case of illegal migrants?  What other services did shelters provide for the victims?


GLENDA SIMMS, expert from Jamaica, congratulated the delegation for the presentation of the country’s progress in honouring the Convention’s provisions.  She had, however, interpreted a certain nuance in the response to the issue of trafficking.  The Convention required the country to take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of trafficking in women.  Pakistan was stated to be a country of origin, destination and transit.  From its response, it was obvious that Pakistan did not agree with that.  The Government’s official stance was not in line with that of non-governmental organizations.  Many women trafficked from Bangladesh were forced into marriage, used as domestic labour and as prostitutes.  The report stated that persons trafficked into Pakistan disappeared among the population, making it difficult to track them and maintain accurate records.  They were not criminals, but victims of an inhumane system.  If they were disappearing among the population, the Government needed to do something about it.  The Government needed to amend the laws regarding prostitution and trafficking in women.  The criminals who trafficked the women should be in prison.


Delegation’s Response


Responding to questions on trafficking, a member of the delegation noted that, despite the Government’s best efforts, it had not able to get an exact picture of the scale of the problem.  Estimates by non-governmental organizations also did not tally with each other.  It was a serious problem requiring further attention.  The Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance, while not perfect, was the first law adopted on trafficking in Pakistan.  It was important to distinguish between the trafficked and the trafficker, with the trafficked being the victim.  Also, it was difficult to distinguish between trafficking, human smuggling and illegal migrants.  Bangladeshi women constituted a complex group; some were economic migrants, some were joining their families, and some were being trafficked.  Some aspects of the law needed to be reviewed.  People who were trafficked could seek assistance at women’s centres.


Mr. MAHMOOD added that Pakistan and Bangladesh had been one country until 1971.  Family reunification was, therefore, a consideration.  Also, a number of people had been found guilty and punished for trafficking.


Experts’ Questions and Comments


FRANÇOISE GASPARD, expert from France, said it would seem that de facto equality was far from being ensured contrary to what the report said on women’s political involvement.  The report acknowledged that fewer women voted than men.  That might be due to problems in terms of identification.  She asked for more information on the procedure for “reserved” seats.  How were such women designated?  While that could be seen as a positive action, it could also be viewed as discrimination.  As they were not directly elected, was there the likelihood of a lack of legitimacy?


Ms. TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, said progress had been slow in terms of women’s representation in political life.  Women were not sufficiently represented in State institutions and positions of decision-making.  In spite of the quota, the numbers were low, particularly in senior-level positions, where women comprised some 0.63 per cent of professional-level grades.  Women also had a low level of participation in the judiciary.  What further measures would be taken to accelerate the process of integrating women in senior-level positions?


MERIEM BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, stressed the difficulties encountered in the country, including along the borders with countries with great problems, causing tremendous concern for its leaders.  Great things had been done for the women of Pakistan, but much remained to be done.  Things needed to change in order for women to be on the same footing as men.  A law could be drafted on women candidates for elected seats in the Senate or Parliament.  Subsidies could also be granted to parties that only had women candidates.  At the local level, no women had been appointed to lead local institutions.  It was through their participation at the local level that women could move to the Senate.  Another barrier to women’s representation was that women were not registered as voters -- a problem for which a solution must be found.  Illiteracy was higher among women than among men, she added.


Delegation’s Response


Mr. MAHMOOD noted that, according to the 2002 electoral reforms, some 17 per cent of seats in the National Assembly, the Senate and provincial assemblies were reserved for women.  In the 1988 general election, all three seats had been held by women in one of the most rural regions.  The number of women was rising in the area of civil administration.


Another member of the delegation said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had the highest representation of women serving as senior officers.  Eight women ambassadors were serving outside of the country, including in high-profile locations.  Hopefully, that situation would only improve.  It was only after 1970 that women had started taking the Foreign Service exam, another member of the delegation said.


Experts’ Questions and Comments


ZOU XIAOQIAO, expert from China, noticed that the 1951 Citizenship Act was amended in 2000, giving citizenship to the children of foreign male spouses.  However, still pending was a further amendment that would confer the right to Pakistani nationality to the foreign spouses of Pakistani women.  Was there a timetable for the passage of that amendment?


Delegation’s Response


A member of the delegation replied that the fact that the further amendment was still pending was a cause of concern and, hopefully, it would be accomplished as soon as possible.  Meanwhile, identification cards were given to foreign male spouses, as well as to Pakistanis living abroad, so that they could own property in Pakistan, among other things.  Hopefully, by the next report, the Committee would hear some good news in that regard.


Experts’ Comments and Questions


Ms. ŠIMONOVIĆ, Committee Chairperson and expert from Croatia, stressed the importance of upholding article 9 of the Convention, and hoped the Government would proceed with the envisaged changes.


Stressing the importance of education, Ms. SIMMS, expert from Jamaica, noted that Pakistan was concentrating on redressing what had happened historically with respect to the education of girls in the country.  Once given access, girls did very well, but private schools were limited to middle and upper classes, so it was very important, especially in some of the provinces, to pay attention to public education.  She also asked about segregated education, specifically whether educating the Pakistani girl was still about cooking and sewing and preparing to become teachers.  Additionally, how was education being dealt with in the remote regions and tribal areas, given the importance for the Government to ensure that tribal girls were educated and moved from the periphery to the centre?


Mr. FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, sought more information about the enrolment of girls in primary and secondary schools, and about the different levels of education among regions and provinces.  Clearly, many girls either did not enrol or dropped out early.  What plans did the Government have to identify the reasons for that, and what policies did it have to stimulate parents to send daughters to school in the villages?  Also, what was the Government doing to eliminate stereotypes in textbooks?


Ms. SAIGA, expert from Japan, asked about compulsory education and whether it was free, expressing serious concern about the high rate of illiteracy, particularly among girls.  She also asked about school segregation between boys and girls.  Further, why did the report state that a segment of society was not comfortable with a curriculum on human rights and HIV/AIDS education?  What was the reason for the opposition?


DORCAS COKER-APPIAH, expert from Ghana, said that some girls were forced to drop out of school.  In addition, some girls’ schools were closed down in response to threats, and women teachers were harassed.  How was the Government responding to the activities of the fundamentalists whose threats were sometimes openly made on radio and television?  If left unchecked, that would retard the progress made thus far in terms of women’s education, she warned.


Delegation’s Response


A member of the delegation said that, although boys and girls were segregated, the curriculum was the same as was the exam for middle and upper schools.  Education in tribal areas was a matter of concern and deserved attention.  Dropouts varied by province, according to the level of development of the province, and access to education varied according to the terrain.  As for the stereotypical roles of men and women in textbooks, that was being reconsidered with a view to eliminating them.  Pakistan did not have compulsory education, but the priority for achieving universal primary school education was high because of the Millennium Development Goals and national educational sector reforms.


Included in those reforms were several programmes and initiatives, including an adult literary programme targeting females, especially in remote areas, and a federal-level programme targeting half a million girls in 29 of the poorest districts.  Girls were given a free lunch in the afternoons as a way of attracting them to attend school, and that programme was currently being expanded.  When revision of the curriculum had begun, the questions of stereotypical roles, human rights, and whether or not to offer education about HIV/AIDS and family planning were difficult to discuss.  Those issues had now become part of the curriculum.


Experts’ Comments and Questions


When the Committee turned to the article on employment, Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, stressing the difficulty in capturing and measuring home-based work, strongly urged the Government to ratify the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on home work.  She was concerned about the private sector, for which the country’s labour laws did not apply depending on the number of employees.  Under article 2, the State party was obligated to eliminate discrimination against women committed by any enterprise, and that also covered the private sector.  She asked if the Government planned to revisit its labour laws.  Also, what measures was it taking to stimulate diversification of occupational choices by women to take up non-traditional jobs?


Delegation’s Response


Acknowledging that home-based workers constituted a “very, very informal and unorganized sector”, and given that 65 per cent of the population lived in rural areas, a member of the delegation said it was very difficult to obtain accurate statistics.  A seminar on the subject would be organized in July, taking the lead from a seminar in New Delhi in February.  There was no doubt that labour laws did not apply to most employment sectors, which were informal and unorganized.  No effort should be spared to give full protection to unskilled workers, and work was under way to ensure that female workers were treated according to the country’s labour laws.


On diversification, another member of the delegation said that women in Pakistan had broken into almost every field of employment.  Two months ago, the Army had commissioned the “first batch” of women into the regular corps of officers, and Pakistan had been the first Muslim country to have women fighter pilots and the first to have provided women peacekeepers to United Nations peacekeeping.  The first Pakistani to go to the North Pole had also been a woman, he informed the Committee.


Experts’ Questions and Comments


Ms. ZOU, expert from China, addressing the issue of health, asked for information on maternal mortality rates in urban and rural areas.  Was the high maternal mortality rate due to a lack of health services or infrastructure?  Was the Government taking concrete measures to lower the maternal mortality rate?  She noted that abortion was illegal in Pakistan.  If a girl was raped and became pregnant, would abortion in that case be considered a crime?


Ms. DAIRIAM, expert from Malaysia, also asked about women’s access to health services, especially in terms of access to contraception.  Noting the correlation between the rate of unsafe abortions and low contraceptive prevalence, she asked the delegation to describe the Government’s priorities in the area of access.  Were there plans to reduce the gap between knowledge and the use of contraception?


Ms. PIMENTEL, expert from Brazil, noted that women’s economic empowerment was a Government’s main priority.  Did the Government connect the issue of poverty with maternal mortality and unsafe and illegal abortions?  Did the Government deal with the issue of illegal abortions as a health issue?  She also asked for information on the country’s existing health structures.


MAGALYS AROCHA DOMINGUEZ, expert from Cuba, asked what had been done to reduce the rate of maternal mortality.  Had the measures adopted by the Government shown results?  Access to general health services alone was not sufficient.  Had the causes of mortality, not just maternal mortality, been examined?  Were medical staff trained to detect cases of violence concealed behind trauma?


Delegation’s Response


Maternal mortality was a problem, especially in rural areas, a member of the delegation responded.  Access to services on the whole was difficult due to resources and difficult terrain.  Basic health units existed in all the small areas and districts.  At the federal level, health was a policy matter.  Health services were delivered through the provincial governments.  “Lady health visitors” were no longer for family planning only but for delivering all kinds of health requirements.  Some 96,000 lady health visitors were being trained and the goal was to raise that number to 100,000.  Regarding family planning, besides using the media, the Government had trained religious leaders on the need for family planning.  Violence was a matter of concern and efforts would be made to train women doctors to deal with cases of trauma.


Abortion was considered illegal as it was considered murder once a foetus was conceived, another speaker said.  It was, however, permissible on medical grounds, both mental and physical.


Experts’ Questions and Comments


Ms. ZOU, expert from China, noted that women faced difficulties in obtaining credit and loans.  What measures had been taken in that regard, especially in terms of national identity cards?


Delegation’s Response


Responding, a member of the delegation said women did not have problems accessing credit.  The First Women’s Bank was not the only scheme.  In all such programmes, at least 50 per cent of recipients should be women.  Microcredit was a good way of providing women with economic empowerment.


Regarding national identity issues, another member of the delegation noted that, as 2007 was an election year, the parties were keen to ensure voter enrolment.


Experts’ Questions and Comments


ANAMAH TAN, expert from Singapore, asked for information on the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund.  When had the Fund been established and had it been assessed?  How many poor rural women had benefited from the initiative?  She also asked for information on women legislators from rural areas.  As up to 82 per cent of women participated in agriculture in rural areas, it was essential that they be consulted when planning for development.


Delegation’s Response


Responding, a member of the delegation noted that the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, in existence for five years, was aimed primarily at rural populations.  Women accounted for 36 per cent of loan recipients.  By the end of the financial year, 56 partner organizations were catering to women.


Statistics on abortion for rape victims were not available, another member of the delegation said.


Experts’ Questions and Comments


Ms. COKER-APPIAH, expert from Ghana, said Pakistan was a country that was steeped in customs and traditions and religion.  The status of its citizens was governed by personal laws, either religious or tribal.  In that regard, she asked about the personal laws governing minorities, as it appeared that those laws left much to be desired.  Personal laws dated back long before the country had even been conceived.  Some of the laws were very discriminatory.  What was the Government doing to review some of those laws, especially since the country from which it had inherited the laws had moved on and changed its laws?  On the Hindu personal laws, she understood that there had been recommendations to review and codify the law.  What progress had been made in that regard?


Ms. BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, also asked about the laws which applied to non-Muslims.  Were special courts familiar with their cases?  The right to enter into marriage was, according to the Convention, the same for men and women.  In Pakistan, the age was 16 for girls and 18 for boys.  What would the Government do in that regard to comply with the Convention?  She also asked about custody and guardianship, noting that Muslim law did not prevent joint custody or guardianship with both parents.  She also referred to separation of property following divorce.  She also asked the delegation to respond to the issue of forced marriages.


Ms. TAN, expert from Singapore, said the report illustrated cases where spouses were selected by parents.  Had the Government made any effort to educate the communities on the need to respect their children’s choices when it came to spouses?  While wives could exercise the right to legally divorce their husbands, some women without correct documentation could be found guilty of adultery upon remarrying.  Were there provisions for civil marriages in Pakistan?


Delegation’s Response


On the question of forced marriage, a bill had been tabled to abolish all kinds of discrimination, a member of the delegation said, adding that the bill had a fair chance of being passed.


Another member noted that minorities were not governed by personal laws in all areas of legislation.  While they were allowed to choose governance under their respective personal laws, under the Muslim Family Law, there was a mandatory requirement to submit paperwork according to the 1961 law.  The Government was willing to bring about positive changes, and would welcome suggestions from the different segments of society.


Regarding divorced women, one delegate said that divorced women had certain privileges and rights.


Regarding the joint guardianship of children, the natural guardian was the father, another member of the delegation said.  Courts took into account the larger interest of the child, however.  If the court felt the child needed to be handed over to its mother, they were.  Islam strongly supported women remarrying.  In terms of inheritance for women, the laws stemmed from Islamic jurisprudence.  Men had the responsibility as breadwinners.  Whatever a woman earned was her own personal possession.  If she shared her wealth with her husband, she was doing an extra favour.  Maintenance of the children remained the father’s responsibility whether the guardianship was with the mother or father.  Arranged marriages did take place.  The courts had taken more notice of it, and had rendered judgements in which it was permissible for a girl to marry according to her choice.  There were civil or court marriages in Pakistan.


Experts’ Questions and Comments


Ms. SHIN, expert from the Republic of Korea, asked a follow-up question about disabled women.  In most countries, some 5 per cent of the population was disabled.  How did the Government arrive at a figure of 2.3 per cent?  Did disabled women have access to shelters?


Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, wanted clarification on the bill to address domestic violence.  She also asked for information on Pakistan’s labour laws in the private sector and formal employment.


Mr. FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, asked if it was correct to say that the declaration should not be seen as a reservation, but as a pure declaration since the spirit of the Convention was in harmony with the spirit of the Constitution and Islamic law.


Ms. TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, asked for greater clarity on the issue of honour crimes.  Why were male relatives exempt from maximum punishment?


Ms. BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, said she was extremely pleased with the session, especially as she came from a Muslim country.  The registration of births, deaths and marriages was an extremely important issue.  She asked the delegation to report back to the Government on the Committee’s position vis-à-vis the report.  She also suggested holding a press conference.


Ms. BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, said the First Women Bank was a commendable initiative.  How did poor rural women access the Bank?  Did it have branches in rural and tribal areas?


Delegations’ Response


On the domestic violence bill, a member of the delegation said it had been introduced in the National Assembly on a “private members day” by two opposition members.  The bill had been adopted by the Standing Committee of the National Assembly and fully deliberated for many months.  The final report would be presented in the next session of the National Assembly.  The First Women Bank -- created by women for women -- had 38 branches.  He assured the Committee that he would hold a press conference as suggested.


Another member of the delegation said the expert’s interpretation of the declaration was correct.


Regarding disabled women, a policy had been recently developed in the earthquake-hit areas, where many women and men had been disabled.  Vocational training was being undertaken to provide them with an opportunity of entering income-generating schemes.  The disaster had been transformed into an opportunity.  Also, the punishment for honour crimes had been increased from 14 to 25 years.


Closing the meeting, Ms. ŠIMONOVIĆ, expert from Croatia and Committee Chair, encouraged the delegation to continue in its efforts in implementing the Convention with the full participation of non-governmental organizations.  She also encouraged the delegation to submit its next report on time, to consider removing reservations to the Convention and to ratify the Optional Protocol.  She underlined the need for political commitment in the fight against violence against women, especially violence at home and honour crimes.


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For information media • not an official record