Gender disparity persists in Punjab

May 31, 2018

LAHORE: Some positive trends have been recorded in the Punjab Gender Parity Report which includes a 13pc rise in female voter registration from 2013 to 2017 and that labour force participation in Punjab (28%) is higher than the national average (22%) and the female literacy rate of 54% is higher than the national average of 48% (2015-16).

The report, launched at an event on Wednesday, states that despite significant steps taken to prevent violence and protect women in 2016, there are 7,678 reported cases of violence against women in 2017, an increase of 5% from 7,313 cases in 2016.

Results of the census reveal that the population of Punjab is 110 million, with 51% men and 49% women. The annual population growth rate of Punjab is 2.13%, lower than the national average of 2.41% and that of the other provinces. The report provides a comparison on key women related indicators in six thematic areas - demographics, governance, health, education, economic participation and opportunities, and justice. It also provides the implementation status of special initiatives introduced by the Punjab government.

Punjab Commission on the Status of Women Chairperson Fauzia Viqar said the report would allow policy makers to identify and address institutional gaps that cause gender inequality and prevent women’s empowerment.

By the end of 2017, 66,293,547 people in Punjab had computerised national identity cards, of which 59% were men and 41% women. Moreover, women in Punjab constituted 44% of the beneficiaries of social security services provided by the Punjab Social Protection Authority in 2017. The government’s aim to have a minimum of 15% women in public sector employment is steadily being implemented.

However, challenges to women’s participation in employment and decision-making remain. Status of women revealed in the report depicts the vulnerabilities faced by women due to gender inequality, discrimination, lack of adequate education and economic opportunities.

The event included a panel discussion on advancing gender parity through collection of gender disaggregated data, and introducing policies to address gender gaps highlighted in the data. Panelists spoke at length regarding steps to be taken by the government and other stakeholders to mainstream women’s empowerment, and how grave social and economic inequalities cannot be ignored amidst global development goals and standards set by international actors.

Finance Minister Aisha Ghous Pasha acknowledged commission’s efforts in relaying updates in implementation of policy and administrative measures in Punjab, to further the interests of women; namely, compliance with 15% quotas for women in public sector employment, women’s enrolment in skills development programs, scholarships awarded to women, hostel facilities in women colleges, special health services and programs introduced specifically for women.

Governor Rafique Rajwana was chief guest.

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2018