The 16th Memorial Lecture

Every year, since its inception, the Foundation invites an eminent person to deliver a lecture on the subject of women and human rights. Ms. Asma Jahangir, Who recently received The Freedom of -Worship Medal at the International Four Freedoms Award 2010 in Holland, delivered the Sixteenth Justice Sunanda Bhandare Memorial Lecture on the "Impact of Law and Politics on Women in Pakistan "on 12th November, 2010, Mr. Jahangir, founder member of the Human Right Commission of Pakistan in 1987, has been its Secretary and its Chairperson. And just two weeks before she delivered the lecture, she made a history when she was elected as the first women President of the Supreme Court bar Association of Pakistan. This year, she has also been awarded Biglali Imtiaz, the the second highest civilian award In Pakistan for services rendered to cause of human rights. She is a staunch critic of the Law of Evidence, which reduce a women's status to half that of a man and also the Hadood Ordinance, in which the victim of rape had to prove her own innocence or face punishment. Ms. Asma Jahangir is equipped with unusual courage; sometimes at great Personal risk dealt with cases of rape and blasphemy. In her Young age she worked in protest against the military regime when she opposed her father's detention by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972. Over the Years, she has faced work Deprivation, house arrest and physical assault.

Expressing her grief over the sad demise of Justice Sunanda Bhandare, Mr. Jahangir said that Justice Bhandare precisely did what they started, with same courage, same vigour and same ideology. The more she read the about her, the more she went back the memory lane. She wanted to use the law as a tool for empowering women.

Ms. Jahangir narrated the experience of their struggle against Islamization of laws, which were unfair and unjust to women. They were told that they were anti-Islamic women. Such a women should not be married to a Muslim. Several times fatwas were issued, in which husbands were called upon to divorce their wives. She always fought against the abuse of women. She narrated one incident when she was arguing for a bail for a woman, who according to the FIR was caught with her paramour. The Judge asked her," Aap ko badmash aurton ki jagah koi our client nahin milta?" She replied smilingly that her Munshi also says the same thing: "Agar badmash admi khatam ho jain to apki practice khatam ho jaigi."In fact, they fought till they made the notorious Hadood Ordinance toothless. This has resulted in the dramatic reduction reduction of women prisoners in jail.

Noted Human Rights Activist Ms. Jahangir said that easy divorce under the present matrimonial law in her country (Pakistan) was running the lives of millions of women, leading to various societal problems. According to her, the concept of man as a provider and women as an up bringer of children and home maker was still prevalent in the Islamic State. Being a women's rights activist has worked against her and often she had to face fundamentalists 'ire. The allegation against her was that was that she was "making a community more brazen".

Divorce, she said, is the cheapest thing in Pakistan. A man has to spend just Rs.10/- to send a letter of talaq to the union counsel and sleep over it and then he automatically gets a divorce. In 80% of such cases , the women have got only Rs.32%- as 'meher'. But women were permitted to move for divorce only if it was mentioned in the 'mehanama'. She emphasized that a women was discriminated against in property rights as well. She has always pleaded for equitable distribution of property at the time of divorce. If they have to share assets every time would not get married several times and this would check polygamy

Ms. Jahangir then spoke about those who raise their voice against the authorities. If you do not agree with someone, you are told to leave the country. What is even worse is that there is impunity for those who want to thrust their point of view on others through violence and threats. That is where the State must take responsibility, she said.

Ms. Jahangir shot into limelight in the early 80s by taking on the them president of Pakistan Zia-ul-Haq, who was attempting to enforce religious laws in the country. As divorce for Christians and Hindus is virtually impossible, a large number of women are converting to Islam in the last few years.This has created a disharmony, even within their own community and a friction between the minority and majority communities has developed.

Ms. Jahangir said, "At present the condition of women in Pakistan in much better, as comared to what it was earlier, although the fact remains that the fair sex has to bear male domination."Mrs. Jahangir made it clear that women in Pakistan have come of age and have been talking on several issues, including rape and divorce. Earlier, talking about these issues was considered a crime. At present, there are a number of women working as anchor and at several key positions in various television channels in Pakistan .Now women are actively participating in discussion and dharams not only for themselves but also for the society.

Referring specifically to the long pending women's bill, she recalled how women activists in Pakistan were able to get 30 per cent reservation bill introduced in the country's National Assembly and now it is time similar reservation be introduced in the Indian Parliament. Ms. Jahangir emphasized that reservation for women was not a matter of charity but that Justice Altmas Kabir, judge of the Supereme Court of India, who was the Chief Guest of the function, said that we need to respect women not only in public domain but also in our own homes. He said that he has accepted this invitation for two reasons-one , to pay homage to an extraordinary women.