Gender-related Bills in the Parliament


Gender-related Bills in the Parliament

SGGI – Working Group on Women and Legislation met for the fifth time at Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad.

The speaker, Advocate Zafar ul Hassan Joya, threw light on ‘gender-related bills pending before Parliament for legislation’ in the meeting.

Mr. Joya observed that the Constitution was the basic document to run national affairs. He briefly discussed the guidelines given by the Constitution for legislation through parliament and also apprised the the group of the procedure, saying that Constitution of Pakistan provided Federal and Concurrent legislative lists to identify legislative jurisdictions of federal and provincial governments.


SGGI Working Group on ‘Women & Legislation’ holds its 5th Roundtable

SGGI – Working Group on Women and Legislation met for the fifth time at Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad.


The speaker, Advocate Zafar ul Hassan Joya, threw light on ‘gender-related bills pending before Parliament for legislation’ in the meeting.


Zafar ul Hasan JoyaMr. Joya observed that the Constitution was the basic document to run national affairs. He briefly discussed the guidelines given by the Constitution for legislation through parliament and also apprised the the group of the procedure, saying that Constitution of Pakistan provided Federal and Concurrent legislative lists to identify legislative jurisdictions of federal and provincial governments. A bill with respect to any matter in the Federal Legislative List or in the Concurrent Legislative List may originate in either House of the parliament for federal legislation. Provincial assemblies may, on the other hand, legislate upon those matters that fall under Concurrent Legislative List or are not listed in either of the two lists. A bill can be initiated either on behalf of the government or by a private member.

Highlighting an increased sensitivity and activism towards gender issues, he pointed out that twenty-four bills regarding gender-related issues were pending before National Assembly at that time (Oct 15, 2009). He introduced each of these bills separately and put forth their salient features.

Bills laid by the Government

  1. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2009
  2. Considering that harassment is one of the most common issues faced, in particular, by the women in Pakistan, amendments are suggested through this bill in Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898. Presently, Section 509 of the PPC declares any word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of women, as basis for a person’s liability to the sentence.  According to the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the bill, this bill takes the spirit of PPC forward and makes it more effective by increasing the maximum punishment for the offense, and by the insertion of a new section 509A. The bill elaborates and specifies what constitutes harassment of any person in public, private, and work places.


  3. The Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2008:
  4. The trials of the accused persons get delayed due to various causes, including the pendency and huge backlog in the courts, with the result that they (accused) languish in jails for indefinite period. The objective of the proposed bill is to provide relief to them, and grant them bail after two years, in case of offences punishable with death, and after one year, in case of offences not punishable with death. This period is further proposed to be reduced to one year and six months, respectively, in case of women accused.

  5. The Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2009:
  6. Asma MushtaqThis bill is built on the principles of equal opportunity for men and women and their right to earn a livelihood. The institution of Ombudsman is suggested to be established at federal and provincial levels to enquire into complaints of offences under this law. It also suggests enactment that each organization of public and private sectors shall constitute an inquiry committee to address complaints of harassment at their respective workplaces. The minor and major penalties for violators of the law are also proposed. A Code of Conduct, annexed to the bill as its schedule, provides a guideline for behavior of all employees, including management and owners of an organization, with an aim to ensure a work environment, free of harassment and intimidation.

  7. The National Commission for Human Rights Act, 2008:
  8. This bill suggests formation of an independent National Commission for Human Rights in pursuance of UN General Assembly Resolutions asking member States to establish the independent human rights monitoring commissions in their countries. The proposed Commission will not only monitor implementation of human rights in the country, but will also be vested with special powers to inquire into any complaints, filed with the Commission or take suo moto action to intervene in any circumstances, where human rights seem to be threatened.

  9. The Family Courts (Amendment) Act, 2008:
  10. The bill is aimed at providing immediate relief to the children by providing interim maintenance allowance, as soon as the written statement is filed on behalf of defendant in a suit for maintenance of children, and at any stage of the case in any other suit for maintenance. (Two separate bills with the same theme have been moved by different members of NA).

  11. The Guardian and Wards (Amendment) Act, 2008:
  12. Through this bill, amendment is being proposed in the Guardian and Wards Act, 1890, with the object of protecting the right of mother for the custody of minor, during the age of his/her minority.

Bills Laid By Private Members

  1. The Family Courts (Amendment) Act, 2009:
  2. This bill provides that speedy trial, in cases relating to the share of women in inheritance, should be ensured, by including them in the schedule of the Family Courts Act, 1964. This will bring the issue of the share of women in inheritance into the jurisdiction of the family courts.

  3. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2009:
  4. It is proposed that when the death of a woman is caused by any burn or a bodily injury, or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances, and it is discovered that soon before her death, she was subjected to cruelty by her husband or any relative of her husband, for, or in connection with any demand for dowry, such death shall be called as dowry death and the accused may be given imprisonment for life, but shall not be less than seven years. It is also proposed that the one, who conceals a lawful female heir, with an intention to deprive her of her legal share in property, should be charged five hundred thousand rupees, in addition to ten year imprisonment. Moreover, punishment has also been proposed for a person who conceals his existing marriage from subsequent wife or vice versa.

  5. The Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2008:
  6. In this bill, it is proposed that in disposing off the cases where question of succession, inheritance or both are involved, courts should determine the shares of all sharers separately without accepting the surrender statement of property, by female, in favor of her male relative. The bill seeks the provision of legal rights of women in inheritance and to save them from denial of their legitimate rights.

  7. The Muslim Family Law (Amendment) Act, 2009:
  8. Hashim RazaThe bill seeks to amend Section 9 of the Muslim Family Law Ordinance 1961, to enable the woman, who has been divorced and has passed the iddat period, but is breast-feeding an infant beyond the previous wedlock, to have the right of maintenance for two years, from her past husband, or if he had died, then, from the infant’s grand parents, or from her late husband’s property, as directed by the Holy Quran.

  9. The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act, 2008:
  10. This bill aims to check those customs, traditions and practices that have taken roots in certain segments of society and are unislamic and inhumane. It prevents using a woman to settle a dispute or to pay off an outstanding debt, and proposes severe punishments for the violators. The bill also prohibits other social evils like depriving women of their inheritance and contracting them into forced marriages.

  11. The Offence of Qazf (Enforcement of Hadd) (Amendment) Act, 2008:
  12. Sexual allegations on an innocent person are one of the most heinous crimes in Islamic legal system. This bill seeks to provide the victims a direct access to court, rather than troubling themselves with the recording of FIRs and police investigation. It also asks for a speedy trial to be completed within four months from the date of institution of the complaint. It also prohibits publicizing the proceedings through media, without express permission of the Court.

  13. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2009:
  14. The bill is meant to control violence against women by use of chemicals. It is proposed to legislate that whosoever causes hurt, injury, grievous bodily harm or disfigures human body of other person by use of chemicals etc. should be punished with imprisonment which may extend to ten years, fine up to one million rupees as well as one-half of diyat.

  15. The Factories (Amendment) Act, 2009:
  16. This bill seeks to reduce the problems of working women by giving them relaxation in duty hours, by one hour in the starting and one hour before closing, so as to enable them to earn their livelihood in a satisfactory manner.

  17. The Factories (Amendment) Act, 2009:
  18. Women workers, besides their jobs, have to look after their families and household affairs. Resultantly, they perform their duties in severe stress, which proves injurious to their health as well as their mental capabilities. This bill seeks flexible working schedule for women so that they may be allowed to complete total duty hours of a week according to their exigencies without having to follow a strict schedule.


  19. The Working Women (Protection of Rights) Act, 2008:
  20. In order to prevent the exploitation of working women, the bill seeks protection for them by giving them transport facility and relaxation in recruitment, age limit, and working hours.

  21. The Prevention of Harassment at Workplace Act, 2008:
  22. The purpose of this bill is to have a fair accountability system for any gender harassment or abuse at the workplace; it aims to ensure a work environment, where women and men can feel safe at work.

  23. In-House Working Women Protection Act, 2008:
  24. Under this Act, the in-house workers signify any woman who works for any other person while doing work at her home for wage or reward while the terms and conditions may be expressed or implied. This bill proposes that legislation should be done for the protection of such working women; they may be registered and given benefits.

  25. Home based Workers Social Protection Act, 2008:
  26. Sofia MalikThis bill proposes an exhaustive arrangement for ensuring protection of those persons who produce goods or offer services in home or nearby premises other than the workplace of the employer; those, occasionally performing their work as employees at home, rather than at their usual workplaces do not become home workers within the meaning of this Act. The bill suggests that a trust overseen by a commission may be established to guarantee rights of fair wages, leave, maternity and medical benefits, death grants and pension, and to prevent arbitrary termination of employment or exploitation at workplace.

  27. Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2009:
  28. The bill aims at extending legal protection to vulnerable people especially women, children, domestic workers, elders, and disabled persons from violence in the context of personal relationships. It prohibits all sorts of violence in the premises of the home, including economic abuse and emotional, psychological and verbal abuse. It provides establishment of Protection Teams at Union Council level to prevent incidents of domestic violence, provide necessary legal, medical and psychological help and protection to the victim.

  29. The Charter of Child Rights Act, 2009:
  30. The bill seeks to protect and promote the rights of children in Pakistan. For this purpose, it provides a national legislative framework for enactment at the federal and provincial levels.

  31. The Protection of Children Act, 2009:
  32. It proposes to establish a commission for the protection of children. Severe punishments are suggested for the accused.

  33. The Compulsory School Attendance Act, 2008:
  34. The right to education is the birth right of every child. This bill seeks to hold the parents, accountable for the failure of their child to attend school. While this bill proposes a whole framework for providing necessary infrastructure, it also provides that negligent parents shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding 5,000 rupees, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both.


In the subsequent discussion, DG IPS Khalid Rahman appreciated Mr. Joya’s effort of presenting the overall picture of current legislative trends in the national parliament. He said that the bills presented in the parliament, either by the government or the private members, on gender-related issues reflect the approach of the legislators over this very significant and sensitive aspect of national life. He suggested that the civil society organizations and all thinking minds need to monitor the developments, and analyze if the current approaches, as depicted in the bills, manifest a clear understanding of national needs and local culture and values.


Discussing provisions of different bills, the house seemed in consensus to support those bills that seek to ensure the right of inheritance to women and prevent those customs and practices which are affront to their fundamental rights of life, dignity and ownership.

Khalid RahmanThe proposal of legislation for maids and those working in homes received large acclaim.  Members also termed the attention towards child rights a welcome development, but underscored that the biggest right of a child was proper and full-time attention of his parents. Managing their material needs through provision of an alternate framework would never serve the same purpose. The focus has to be made on providing and ensuring unhampered love and protection for them.


Besides, a number of suggestions, put forth for legislation, do not reflect indigenous thought as such. Therefore, need is there to concentrate on national objectives and construct of the society while avoiding any alien approach or framework, because only those laws which are in conformity with the religious and cultural values can gain acceptability among the masses. This calls for the consultation, more frequently and with an enhanced degree of respect, by all concerned institutions ensuring the conformity of laws with the injunctions of Islam.


Mr. Rahman proposed a consistent and disciplined study of dynamics of the debate at national level, and to reach out to the community with the outcome. He emphasized the need to encourage and support any effort meant towards creating a balanced and a progressive society, while expressing concern over any attempts to undermine those indigenous norms and values that form basis for the positive attitudes and outcomes in the society.


Analysis of the legislative dynamics requires a consideration of the mover of the bill, the campaigning lobby, if any, conformity of the theme and content of the bill with the social trends, popular practices and contemporary legislation in the country. Ratio of Women Parliamentarians’ participation in moving women right bills is another required consideration.  It should also be well thought-out that the bills are implementable or not; whether they will be sufficient to remove the causes of concerns. An analysis should also be made of the legislation on women right in proportionate to the overall legislation. While the current review is updated, there is a need to continue work on the above lines in order to have an update available on this important subject and make whatever contribution we may offer to specific laws.

October 15, 2009

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