‘Women’s rights tied to electoral politics’

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LAHORE: Activist Alia Amirali on Friday stressed the need for connecting scattered feminist efforts with electoral politics in the country.

“Feminism is not just about cultural or social norms, it is a political concern needing political solutions,” Amirali said at the AWP’s Second All Punjab Women’s Conference at Hamdard Hall, Lytton Road.

Amirali urged activists to focus their energies on expanding the party’s organisation to address working women’s concerns. She said women activists should be wary of the agenda of promotion of women’s rights in non-western countries advocated by the United Nations and international non-government organisations (INGOs).

She called these institutions “an integral part of the capitalist and patriarchal system” of nation-states. AWP president Abid Hasan Minto said liberation of women could not be achieved without transforming the country’s economy along socialist ideals. He said men’s dominant position was tied to their control over state institutions pertaining to use of violence and force. “All marginalised social groups be mobilised against feudal and crony capitalist economic system to achieve emancipation of women,” he said. AWP finance secretary Shazia Khan said instances of violence against women were a byproduct of behaviour emerging out of socialisation of men and women based on patriarchal gender norms.

AWP leader Ismat Shahjahan said that in Pakistan gender was not the only factor involved in instances of violence against women. She said religion, economic class and national identity had contributed to the problem. Saleha Rauf said cotton-picking women were vulnerable to several diseases because their employers did not provide them for necessary precautions. She lamented that there were no specific provisions for cotton pickers in laws on workplace safety. AWP Lahore women’s secretary Nusrat Basheer Zafar highlighted the issues of wage disparity between working men and women and the failure of the Labour Department to address concerns taken to it by working women. Sharing the findings of her research, Khaula Wilayat said she had found that compared to educated women in cities illiterate working women in rural areas were more likely to use grievance redress mechanisms.

“It would be incorrect to assume that only education may enable women to be more aware of their oppression,” she said. As many as 68 per cent of her respondents said they had suffered various gender-based crimes but didn’t report them because of unwelcoming atmosphere at police stations. Of those who reported crimes, she said, 71 per cent had to face adverse consequences.

(Courtesy by The Express Tribune)

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