The National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) initiated a study on women and policy in Pakistan at the beginning of 2010. The purpose of the study was to track discriminatory trends in current policies on women; uncover the flawed underpinnings of gender discriminatory policy approaches and; through a consultative process recommend alternative approaches for fair and just policy making.
Recognising other parallel processes that work towards gender equity, such as the National Plans of Action and the National Policy for Development and Empowerment of Women 2002, the NCSW study consciously steers away from duplicating and repeating such efforts. Instead, the purpose of this study is more immediate and specific. It attempts to highlight the concerns emerging from the policies of the incumbent government and having identified some specific and urgent areas of concern, it proposes recommendations so that correctives may be made to existing policy. At the same time, this study hopes to caution
against those policy initiatives which threaten to blindside women's
specific needs, opportunities and rights.
Moreover, the study should read as a guideline to policy makers and other stakeholders on the concepts that inform gendered social policy. The specifics discussed around the themes below should serve as benchmarks against which the tenacity of gender-fair policy can be measured. While international commitments and United Nations goals and conventions are invaluable in themselves, it is strategically important to identify local policy flaws and point out the opportunities and possibilities of correctives through local governance mechanisms too.
As stated above, there are some pre-existing documents and plans of action that identify legal, political and bureaucratic shortcomings that prevent the achievement of gender equality and women's empowerment. The NCSW study takes a different approach to policy analysis. Rather than duplicating a list of themes and concerns such as those documented in the Beijing Plus process, it examines the main policies and initiatives of the current government and highlights the conceptual impulse, political motive, contradictions, alternative possibilities and methodologies that can inform such policy.
The central idea of the study is to serve as a guideline on how policy initiatives, which may read well on paper, can end up negating the purpose of gender equality when applied in the field. Alternatively, flawed policy that is motivated by gender discriminatory impulses can be very effective, since it fits in well with the broader patriarchal social, institutional and attitudinal web of relations in households and communities, as well as in formal institutions, including public office.
Click here to download the NCSW-Pakistan's study on a framework for gendered policy.