The Balochistan Assembly unanimously adopted on Saturday a bill aimed at curbing the harassment women face at workplaces, a welcoming development indeed. Balochistan is very regularly in the news, however issues of security and military are given priority and social issues take a back seat. If the province is to develop and catch up with the other provinces, social securities need to develop along with better security.

This is a national problem: we look at any policy that aims at protecting women to be of secondary importance, including giving them access to healthcare and education. We argue that education and health should be the state’s top concern, yet, put “women’s” in front of those words and interest and support immediately drop. Even if our society has not yet evolved its mindset to consider women equal to men, at least their role as mothers and guardians can be recognised. An unhealthy and poor woman cannot be a good mother, cannot provide for or protect her child, and is handicapped to make sure that her child becomes a productive member of society.

In Balochistan, 63 out of 1000 newborns die within 28 days of their birth- statistics directly correlated with the health of the mother. Women also face extreme malnutrition, and a vast number of them are anaemic. Bad governance and militarisation has deprived people of basic facilities. Female doctors, in particular, are reluctant to serve in remote parts of the province and the ailing female segment of the society is left to nursed by aged women. This bill may give some protection to women, so that they can train and work and help improve their standing in the community as well as their economic position.

In rural Balochistan, literacy rates among women are the lowest in Pakistan. They cannot speak for their rights and have to rely on their tribal society for any recourse to justice and rights- most often refused to them. Only the state can help, by stepping in to create laws that make the protection of women a legal necessity.