The conference, ‘Hamara Pakistan Kaisa Ho Ga’ at the PNCA marked the 30th anniversary of a movement launched by the Women Action Forum and the Pakistan Women Lawyers Association on February 12, 1983, to advocate against the law of evidence and the Hudood ordinance.
The speakers repeated that the Hudood ordinance and the blasphemy laws should be repealed.
They added that the local government should also be revived to ensure women’s participation.
Discussing the impact of the judicial system on women, Justice (retired) Nasira Javed noted that it was the Supreme Court that ruled in 1990 that women were entitled to inheritance. She said delay in framing the constitution of the country had hampered the growth of effective policing and judicial systems.
I.A. Rehman, the director of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), said the participation of women in parliament had increased over the past five years.
He said the electoral system should be open to all Pakistanis. It is only through economic empowerment that citizens can make free decisions. Mr Rehman argued that time had come to give ownership of agricultural land to those who worked and harvested it. Pakistan, he added, faced not just the spectre of federalism but also intolerance and extremism.
To get success, any political movement must address the needs of all segments of society, he added.
Mohammad Ali Babakhel, a former police officer, said the police had started inducting women into higher-ranking positions.
He said without behavioural changes policewomen could not be effective.
He agreed that women, including rural women, should be able to access and rely on the police.
Marvi Sirmad said moral standards by which society judged women needed to be redefined.
Too many people are focused only on how women dress, she added. Sania Saeed stressed the need for tolerance and argued that media portrayal of women was a problem.