Punjab Commission on Status of Women Bill passed

LAHORE: The provincial government, announcing to observe March 8 this year as Women Empowerment Day, has passed the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women Bill 2013, at the Punjab Assembly.
The bill aims at giving more opportunities of socio-economic development to women and eliminating all kinds of discriminations against them.
According to the bill, the Punjab government shall constitute a commission that shall consist of a female chairperson having experience of 15 years of working for women’s empowerment in society.
The chairperson’s job shall be equivalent to a Grade-21 officer and she shall hold her office for three years. The government shall appoint her on the recommendations of a search committee headed by the chief secretary, two female members of the Punjab Assembly, one each nominated by the government and the leader of opposition in the House while secretaries of law, finance, human rights and women development departments would be part of that committee, according to the bill.
In the commission, 14 other female staff, including a minority woman, will also be included as members while some secretaries of government departments including law, home and finance will also be members of the body. 
Female members of the commission would be hired from nine districts of the province while the president of Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WCCI) and head of the Women Development Department would also be included in the commission.
The Punjab government shall not appoint any member who is less than 30 years old. A secretariat will be constituted for the commission, headed by its chairperson, and a secretary and other supporting staff would also be there. The commission will examine and review the policy, provincial laws, rules and regulations affecting the status and rights of women and will also suggest repeal, amendment or new legislation for empowerment of women, according to the bill.
The commission shall also sponsor, steer and encourage research to generate information, analysis and studies and maintain a database relating to women and gender issues to provide awareness. It would also develop interaction and dialogue with NGOs, experts, and individuals and institutions and the organisations of other territories for collaboration to achieve gender equality in society.
The commission shall also hold at least four meetings in a year and decisions of the commission shall be taken by the majority of the members present there. All provincial executive authorities shall also assist the commission in the performance of its functions.
The commission shall appoint an Executive Committee consisting of the chairperson and three other members to oversee the implementation of the decisions and recommendations of the commission. The commission may also constitute such other committees for amongst its members having authority to co-opt any person possessing especial expertise in the relevant subject of the committee.
All the members and officers of the commission will be public servants under the Section 21 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860, and the provincial government will provide funds to it and the chairperson shall be the principal accounting officer of the commission. The accounts of the commission shall be annually audited by the Auditor General of Pakistan and the government will lay the audit report in the Punjab Assembly.
Though the opposition suggested six amendments to the bill, the House rejected all of them by majority. Out of six amendments, the opposition also withdrew its last and sixth amendments in protest, saying that the government was “just opposing their amendments without any vision”. 
However, they recommended the House through the amendments that the commission should be consisted of all female members instead of any male secretary or other official as it would only address the issues of women. 
Dr Nosheen Hamid and Shunila Ruth also suggested giving a five percent quota to minority women in order to make the commission more independent.
Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, who had moved the bill in the House, rejecting the amendments proposed by the opposition said that his government has brought the laws regarding empowerment of women in a positive gesture. He announced that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has decided to observe International Women Day on March 8 as Women Empowerment Day this year and laptops would also be distributed among women on that day on merit.

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