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Public Divided on Women’s Protection Bill 

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A lot has been said and done about women’s rights in the country lately. Some of the people claim to be struggling for equal rights in this male dominated culture while others believe that women have already crossed the limits set down for them by their religion. Gallup Pakistan has carried out several surveys on this subject in the past few years. The following summarizes the data collected through surveys conducted on the Women’s Protection Bill and the Hudood Ordinance.
A lot people of seem to think that men and women enjoy equal rights in Pakistan. In a survey conducted in 2005, the respondents were given a list of sectors and were asked if they thought that men and women enjoyed equal rights in these fields in their localities. 45% believed that they had equal access to education, 32% thought that they enjoyed comparable employment opportunities and 44% said that similar health facilities were available to members of both sexes. 33% and 31% of the people were of the view that women and men enjoyed the same position when seeking justice and political participation respectively. 78% of the people were of the view that women’s rights was included in the current government’s priorities, 13% thought that this was not so and 9% said that had no idea.
In early 2006, the respondents were questioned about the Hudood Ordinance. It seems that the people were deeply divided on the issue. 31% claimed to support the Ordinance. Likewise, the percentage of people who opposed it also stood at 31% while 38% of the people said that they did not know. Similarly, 29% of the respondents were in favor of amending the Ordinance as compared to 27% who considered any amendment to be wrong. 44%, however, did not offer a definite response.
In a survey conducted later that same year, 40% of the people agreed with the claim that men and women enjoyed equal rights in the country. 43% thought that this was not the case and 17% stated that they were not sure. When questioned about the adoption of the Women’s Protection Bill by the government, 43% of the people said that it was a good decision, 36% viewed it as bad and 21% were unsure. In response to a similar question, 41% of the respondents stated that they supported the Bill, 37% opposed it and 22% expressed their uncertainty over the matter. When faced with the question, ‘Some people believe that this Bill will increase obscenity in the society while others believe that it will protect women’s rights. What is your view point?’, 39% of the people asserted that it would increase obscenity and shamelessness in the society. The percentage of people who believed that it would protect women’s rights also stood at 39% and 22% said that they did not know.
When asked about the likely reaction of the MMA, the key opposition party to the Women’s Protection Bill, 58% of the respondents predicted that the government will not be able to reach a compromise with MMA. 35% thought that there was room for such a possibility and 7% were unsure. Similarly, only 14% felt that there was a strong possibility of MMA accepting the Bill, 35% were of the view that it was somewhat likely, 28% thought that it was not all possible and 23% did not offer a definite opinion.
There is no denying that the public is divided on the issue; some people have welcomed this change while others are very apprehensive about it. It will be quite some time before one can assess that actual affects and influences of this Bill on the society at large.
These surveys and polls were conducted by Gallup Pakistan, an affiliate of Gallup International, on a sample of over 1100 respondents in urban areas of all four provinces of Pakistan. This sample was statistically selected across all ages, income groups and educational levels. The error for a sample of this kind is estimated to be +/- 5% at a 95% confidence level.

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