LAHORE - Rights activists in Pakistan have echoed the call of feminists across the world, urging the government to establish an equal judicial system.

“All parallel systems like jirga and similar sittings must be abolished because they are repugnant to the general law of the country,” activists from the Women’s Action Forum demanded on the eve of Women’s Day yesterday.

These systems include military courts, anti-terrorist courts, Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), Federal Shariat Court, jirgas, panchayats and musalhati committees.

The activists maintained such systems operate outside the domain of the constitution of the country and the principles of due process and fair trial.

They stressed that the state must strengthen the civil judicial system at all levels for the process of democratisation, ensuring complete independence and to improve access to justice for all, especially for women.

On International Women’s Day, the Women’s Action Forum members also reasserted women’s right to participate in recreational activities, sports and all aspects of cultural life; ownership of property, just and favourable conditions of work and equal pay for equivalent value of work; participation in all political activities ; right to hold any public or private office; equal quality education and health care; and the right to choose partners and freedom to contract personal relationships while being recognised as equal partners in development.

The WAF activists also highlighted the often overlooked fact that Pakistan is a State Party to, and therefore has obligations under, several international conventions and treatise regarding women’s rights, in particular Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

In light of the constitution and the international conventions, the women hold the right to life, liberty and dignity and the fundamental rights of women, children, transgender persons and men.

The campaigners categorically condemned all sexual, physical, emotional abuse and exploitation of women in the private and public sectors.

They were dismayed at the increasing levels of violence and brutality in society, and the apparent lack of political will to overcome impunity.

“Since all the violence against lawful citizens remains a crime against the state, the state itself cannot be allowed to withdraw from its prime responsibility for guaranteeing the security of all persons without discrimination,” they said, adding that the WAF also stands for the abolishment of death penalty and all other forms of inhumane and cruel punishments.

EMPOWERMENT FOR DEVELOPMENT: Kaneez Fatima, founder of Amrana Kaneez Welfare Foundation, said Islam gives equal rights to women and teaches that they must be treated with respect. They should be given education and opportunity to work in every field.

“Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is the perfect example who gave full respect to women. In Pakistan, women are excelling in every field and playing their due role in the development of country,” said Ms Fatima.

In a statement issued yesterday, Dean of Lahore Cathedral Rev Shahid Mehraj called for equal rights for women according to the constitution. “We must give respect to women and provide them opportunities to help in the task of nation building.

“No nation can make progress in every field unless women are there to provide equal help in the task. Therefore, provision of women with their due rights is necessary for any society to develop,” the reverend added.