The touchstone of morality of a nation is the way it treats its weaker members, including womenfolk. Women are a very important segment of society. Without their unhindered participation in all spheres of national life, no nation can march towards its cherished goals of economic, political and cultural progress and aspire to earn a respectable place in the comity of nations. That perhaps adequately explains the difference between developed and non-developed nations. It is quite unfortunate that the Pakistani women have long been subjected to discrimination, harassment and violence on the basis of a misconstrued understanding of religion and cultural traditions. They have been treated as inferior human beings and deliberately kept out of the national mainstream by successive regimes, their prime concern has been to protect their vested interests through the perpetuation of an archaic feudal system of governance, which discourages the participation of women in national affairs. In addition, the Pakistani society has remained oblivious to this injustice to women and the blatant abuse of human rights. The media though sporadically does highlight their plight, but its major engagement and concern have remained the prevalent political landscape. A close, unbiased and objective appraisal of the political history of Pakistan reveals that notwithstanding the incessant flak directed at the PPP by its detractors within the establishment, and certain elements and their sympathisers in the media, the party enjoys the unique distinction of setting in a silent revolution in Pakistan through its pioneering efforts for the emancipation of women. To begin with, the 1973 Constitution (given by the party) ensured equal rights for women in conformity with the vision of the Quaid. On the humanitarian front, during the PPPs second government, the Ministry of Human Rights was established to monitor and investigate human rights abuses, particularly against women. Pakistan also ratified the UN Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). On the economic front, the First Women Bank was established to provide easy credit to women to encourage and develop their entrepreneurial skills, and also to strengthen the process of economic emancipation. For this, a network of vocational training centres was set up across the country to improve their abilities and chances of employability in productive pursuits. On healthcare, a vast network of 133,000 lady health workers was set up to address womens health-related issues, especially their reproductive health needs, in both the rural and urban areas of the country. This initiative has invariably been touted by all governments as Pakistans showpiece health programme. On security, the launching of the women police and appointment of women judges in the superior courts depicted a radical and positive departure from the unenviable past. Nevertheless, the present PPP government, too, has displayed its unwavering commitment and dedication to the cause of women by promulgating the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Bill, 2009. The legislation does take Pakistan one notch up on the moral plank, in addition to all the other accompanying benefits. In a society, which continues to be haunted by the demon of conservatism, the new legislation marks the beginning of a pragmatic and forward-looking approach in conformity with the emerging social realities. With the growing number of women joining or aspiring to join the workforce in different fields of national life, the problem of the harassment of women at their workplace had also assumed alarming proportions According to a survey conducted by an NGO, about 80 percent of the working women in Pakistan at one time or another have been through this ordeal. The new legislation on harassment and amendment in Section 509(A) of the Pakistan Penal Code thus lays a solid foundation for ensuring a harassment-free working environment for women. It is a significant initiative on many counts: Firstly, it will encourage the working women, who have been enduring the humiliation of sexual harassment in the absence of an appropriate legal support, to spurn and resist the unwanted approaches by their colleagues or workmates and do their jobs with confidence. Secondly, it will also remove the biggest hurdle in the way of the women, who were reluctant to join the workforce due to this phenomenon. Thirdly, it would greatly help in changing the mindset of those who indulge in the detestable pursuit of harassment. It will also act as a catalyst to nudge the process of social and economic change. Women constitute nearly 51 percent of our population and their participation in the countrys economic activities can also impart impetus to the governments effort to eliminate poverty. Nevertheless, the Bill has been widely acclaimed as an epoch-making move by the Pakistani government. Also, the PPP government can rightly boast of legislating on another very important and sensitive issue of domestic violence. For years, domestic violence has been a source of public concern; successive governments have never dared to delve into it. But the courage and commitment shown by the present regime to tackle this nagging problem through the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, 2008, is beyond reproach. The granting of complete administrative and financial autonomy to the National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW) and fixation of 10 percent quota for women in government jobs, besides the initiation of the process to review all the discriminatory laws against women, will surely contribute to the emancipation of women in Pakistan and accelerate the process of development. It will also improve the countrys image, as a truly welfare, progressive and Islamic state. However, unfortunately these progressive measures have failed to attract the attention of the members of the civil society and the media. n The writer is a freelance columnist.