‘Ban' on women councillors -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

‘Ban’ on women councillors

The ‘unofficial ban’ placed by a local jirga on women councillors in the Upper Dir district, which bars them from attending district council sessions, deserves to be heaped with condemnation.

It goes to show that despite all the claims by enlightened authorities regarding the affirmative action taken for uplifting the oppressed status of women in Pakistani society, merely passing laws and quotas will not get the job done.

As always, it is a matter of implementing the law of the land. This applies most to the more remote areas of the country, where the change in mindset, which has been institutionalised with the provision of quotas for women, has had absolutely no effect. There has been a lot of talk regarding the need to establish the writ of the state in terms of anti-state elements, ignoring the fact that such a sentiment applies not only to security issues but to social and political ones too. As it stands, the role of these women councillors in local affairs, which are provided for in the Local Government Ordinance of 2001, is being openly flouted by a handful of men who feel it their right to impose their patriarchal views on the citizens of this country. Not only are the women being barred from attending sessions, but their male relatives, who are unelected and have absolutely no mandate, feel it their right to attend the sessions and actually make decisions on their behalf.

Moreover, the women councillors in the area have not been given their due share of the annual development budget which is allocated for their constituencies, which not only denies the women their ability to work for their areas, but also deprives the people residing therein. If ’empowered’ women, which is what these councillors apparently are, face such hardships, then one wonders what chance ordinary women have in Dir. It is alarming that this ‘ban,’ which has been in place for two years now, has been ignored by the authorities. Despite the concerns expressed by various quarters about the role of the jirgas in the subjugation of women in rural areas and their existence as a parallel judiciary being a direct challenge to the law of the land, these self-styled assemblies continue to function with the tacit approval of authorities such as the Sindh chief minister. Such ‘bans’ also show that even the best of initiatives aimed at empowering women, i.e. the setting aside of reserved seats for them at all levels of government, can fail if society is not able to shake off the yoke of conservatism and misogyny.
Source: The News
Date:8/7/2007