The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called for addressing the ‘near-complete exclusion’ of women from top governance positions in the country.
A statement issued by the HRCP from Lahore, as part of its media campaign ahead of International Women’s Day (March 8), said that even though women constituted half the national population, there were only two women members in the federal cabinet compared to 27 men. In the provinces also, women constituted only six per cent of cabinet members: four ministers out of a total of 64 across all provinces. Not a single provincial chief minister or governor was a woman.
This state of affair was not limited to elected or political office but extended to senior positions in the administration and bureaucracy. Women headed only seven out of Pakistan’s 111 foreign missions. Since the country’s creation, only one woman had ever served as governor of the State Bank of Pakistan.
Out of five public banks (National Bank of Pakistan, Bank of Khyber, Bank of Punjab, First Women’s Bank and Sindh Bank), only one (First Women’s Bank) was headed by a woman. Out of 71 public universities, only six had women vice-chancellors. Out of these, four headed women-only universities.
A woman had never been Pakistan’s chief election commissioner and there were no female members of the election commission. There was not a single woman among Pakistan’s federal and four provincial ombudspersons. “The examples of near-complete exclusion of women from top governance positions are far too numerous to be recounted here. This state of affairs is not a coincidence and demonstrates not just exclusion of women from important decision-making but also lack of effective measures to address under-representation of women in that respect, the HRCP stated.
The commission said that women continued to experience significant discrimination related to their participation in public and political life in most domains of the public sphere. The reasons for the under-representation of women in power and decision-making were multifaceted and complex, and stemmed from economic, social and cultural issues, as well as from negative stereotypes about women and entrenched gender roles.
The HRCP urged the government to fulfill Pakistan’s obligations to remove the barriers to women’s full and active participation in the public sphere and advance women’s equality and effective representation, doing away with the so-called glass ceilings,