The recently established Punjab Provincial task force on Goal 5 Gender Equality under the Chairpersonship of Madam Uzma Kardar (MPA, Chairperson Punjab Assembly Standing Committee on Gender Mainstreaming) organized its first meeting at the Punjab Assembly to finalize the roadmap for protection, empowerment, and development of women and girls, transgender community, and persons with special abilities in Punjab. The meeting was attended by representatives from 23 government departments including the Punjab Women Protection Authority, the Women Chamber of Commerce, the Punjab Ombudsperson Office, the Home Department, the Punjab Commission for the Status of Women, the Directorate of Human Rights, the Punjab Police, the Punjab Information Technology Board, and other key departments.
Ms. Uzma Kardar said that Punjab would be made a model province, with the support of all the task force members, that all other provinces can follow. She shared that the Government of Punjab has identified Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, Gender Equality, as one of the priority goals in Punjab’s 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development. Empowering women and girls, the transgender community, and persons with special abilities, and promoting gender equality is crucial to accelerating sustainable development in Pakistan. While Punjab has developed a strong mechanism to achieve the SDGs, several challenges to the achievement of Goal 5 remain.
Secretary Assembly Mr. Inayatullah Lak also highlighted the significance of each department’s role and assured of Punjab Assembly’s full support for legislative and policy actions.
To ensure Pakistan has a strong legislative, policy, and institutional framework to achieve Goal 5 and its targets, Country Director Peace & Justice Network, Syed Raza Ali, the technical member of the task force, presented the Punjab Action Plan including findings to curb gender-based violence, early and forced marriages and empowerment of persons with special abilities, transgender community, and minorities identified under Aawaz II Program consultative process. After deliberation, it is agreed that the task force will set priority commitments for the Provincial Action Plan and design phase-wise implementation plan. The working group also agreed to form a monitoring mechanism with special emphasis on the working of the Punjab Commission for the Status of Women and the Punjab Local Government System. It is agreed that every department will mainstream gender in their policies and their working.
Representatives from UNDP, WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, and UNWOMEN also attended the task force meeting, sharing their feedback for strengthening the task force and ensuring their full support. Also, civil society members Ms. Ume Laila, Ms. Bushra Khaliq, Mr. Salman Abid, Ms. Nighat Dad, Ms. Saadia Salahuddin, Ms. Umaira, and Ms. Imtiaz Fatima presented the community’s perspective and demands.
The Punjab Provincial task force on Goal 5, Gender Equality, has decided to initiate work on consolidation of women and child rights laws in Punjab as there are so many laws that have been passed but lack implementation. The task force will also perform post-legislative security of all the acts linked with the Sustainable Development Goal 5’s all 9 targets. During the meeting, it was agreed to form sub thematic groups of the task force for a timely response. It was also agreed that there is a need to develop a comprehensive strategy to address increasing violence against women and girls on online platforms such as cyber harassment. It was also recommended to strengthen the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) capacity for timely resolution of cases and fixing a timeline for cases as currently there is no time limit. Also, there is a need to develop provincial mechanisms by engaging the Special Branch with the assistance of CTD and police for timely action on cyber-crimes.
The task force will also be working on pending legislation including the Minority Rights Commission Bill, the Punjab Child Protection Bill, the Forced Conversion Bill, the Acid Crime Bill, the Transgender Right Bill, the Child Marriage Bill and the Rights for Persons with Disabilities Bill. The task force will also work on the implementation of the Legal Aid Authority Act to ensure access to justice and support for the poor and marginalized communities. The task force will also work on the implementation of the Transgender Social Protection Policy, Women Development Policy as well as finalization of rules of Sikh Marriage Act and Hindu Marriage Act.
To address data gaps and to map all the key initiatives on SDG 5 in Punjab, it is agreed that a provincial repository will be developed with the support of PITB at the Punjab Assembly. Strengthening of District Management Information System for gender mainstreaming and ensuring gender-responsive budgeting has also been highlighted.
All the participants appreciated the working of the task force and also recommended that other provinces should establish similar mechanisms.
The Provincial Task Force on Goal 5 Gender Equality is the first such initiative in Pakistan taken by the Punjab Assembly under the direction of Speaker Punjab Assembly Honourable Parvaiz Elahi. The task force is mandated to achieve gender equality which is crucial for accelerating sustainable development in Punjab. Ending all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls especially adolescent girls, the trans community, minority and persons with special abilities is not only a basic human right, but it will also have a multiplier effect across all other development areas. Sexual violence and exploitation, the unequal division of unpaid care and domestic work, and discrimination in public decision making, including ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health, and affording women equal rights to economic resources such as land and property, are vital targets to realizing this goal.