National Assembly passes landmark women’s rights bill

Published: November 15, 2011

The historical bill was tabled by Member of National Assembly Dr Donya Aziz. The bill is aimed at prohibiting exploitation and discrimination against women. PHOTO: APP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: The women of the National Assembly do not give up easily.

On Tuesday, the assembly passed a twice-snubbed landmark private bill demanding greater social protection for women.

The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2011, which was authored by Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid MNA Dr Donya Aziz, had remained stuck for three years, first in various NA committees and then the house itself. However, after a couple of amendments were incorporated into the final draft, the bill was unanimously passed by the lower house, which is incidentally headed by a woman Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza.

The act, hailed by commentators as a show of collective resolve by political parties to fight social taboos against women, deals with issues such as depriving women their inheritance and forcing them into marriage to settle disputes.

The bill outlines strong punishments for social practices like wanni, swara or budla-i-sulh, wherein women are traded to settle personal, family or tribal disputes. For the first time, the bill proposes a minimum benchmark for penalising those involved in “anti-women practices”.

However, the bill does not propose a mechanism to ensure that such cases are reported and reach a court of law, which is a necessity as these crimes often go unchecked and unreported.

Mirza, who had sent the draft to the law ministry last month for vetting, congratulated the house and the author of the bill moments after MNAs voted to pass the legislation.

Congratulations also poured in from Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani who said that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and its democratic government had always risen above party politics when it came to the rights of women. “All legislators of the PPP lent their full support to this bill and I will continue to lend my support to its implementation,” he said.

In her statement of objects and reasons, Aziz wrote that the legislation aimed to reduce social injustice against women by proposing severe punishments.

The bill was deferred last month after a member from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz objected that proposing a minimum limit for a crime would be in contradiction with the basic spirit of the law.

Pakistan Peoples Party stalwart Justice (retd) Fakharunnisa Khokhar also objected to a clause in the bill proposing inheritance for women in moveable property.

(Read: Keeping women down)

(With additional input from APP and reporting by Abdul Manan in Lahore)

 

Fair treatment for the fairer sex

• Forcing a woman into marriage for settling a dispute to be a non-       bailable offence

• Bartering a woman in such a way to be punishable by three to five     years imprisonment and a fine of Rs0.5 million

• Depriving a woman of her inheritance can lead to imprisonment of     between five and 10 years or a fine of Rs1 million or both

• Forced marriages (other than those for settling disputes) to be             punishable by between three and 10 years imprisonment and a fine     of Rs0.5 million

• Forcing a woman to “marry” the Holy Quran to result in a jail term   of three to seven years and a fine of Rs0.5 million

Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2011.

Reader Comments (39)

  • anwar
    Nov 15, 2011 - 5:21PM

    Teenage beauty queen ‘stoned to death’: Report

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  • Ali
    Nov 15, 2011 - 5:21PM

    Nice development ! Hope that this law is also implemented in true spirit.

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  • KM
    Nov 15, 2011 - 5:27PM

    Marrying a girl with quraan, should face instant death penalty, so that such blasphemy is culminated once and for all.

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  • zalim singh
    Nov 15, 2011 - 5:27PM

    and this bill will be immediately infringed for sure?

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  • AnisAqeel
    Nov 15, 2011 - 5:32PM

    Long overdue this good bill and a great dividend of democracy, free press, efforts of human rights agencies and foremost salute to the victims who stood against and showed bravery.

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  • Adeel759
    Nov 15, 2011 - 5:33PM

    Great, I didn’t read the name of staunchest supporter of womens rights, Sherry Rehman.

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  • Saad
    Nov 15, 2011 - 5:34PM

    Bravo! An eye opener for all, its the same feuds in power, yet under the power of democracy they outlaw the very practices they indulge in. democracy delivers! Congratulations to women of Sindh in particular and Pakistan in general!

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  • John B
    Nov 15, 2011 - 5:35PM

    After sixty years, it is a step in the right direction. Surprised that PAK which elected a female PM twice did not have laws hitherto to prevent abuse of marriage against women.

    What does marrying a girl off to the Quran mean?

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  • KJ
    Nov 15, 2011 - 5:40PM

    It is so encouraging to see assembly doing some constructive work at last besides their political wrangling & ugly bickering. A much needed bill to abolish discrimination & exploitation of women has been passed, good work parliamentarians!!!!

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  • Acorn Guts
    Nov 15, 2011 - 6:33PM

    Thank you so very much for your efforts Dr Donya Aziz. These are very real issues that plague our society. I can only hope the implementation of this bill is taken as seriously as it should.

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  • Mj
    Nov 15, 2011 - 6:33PM

    It is a very positive development and will hopefully serve to reduced the prevalence of discriminatory and violent practices against women.

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  • Sam
    Nov 15, 2011 - 6:43PM

    Many Pakistani men are also victim of forced marriages. Their parents marry them to a girl they don’t love in the name of culture,traditions and family values. Why men are not protected by the law. This bill sexist. i REJECT this bill. i demand equal rights for both men and women.

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  • Ali
    Nov 15, 2011 - 6:56PM

    Good move!

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  • SH
    Nov 15, 2011 - 7:14PM

    Excellent move forward! However, I doubt we’ll be seeing anyone fined or imprisoned any time soon for marrying a woman off to the Quran…one day perhaps!

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  • Ahsan
    Nov 15, 2011 - 7:20PM

    In a Pakistani Society most of the women wouldn’t use such a law against their parents because the society itself has been cultured to have a woman submit to the wishes of parents.

    Anything as such if formalized could result in more honor killings and torture.Jailing her parents for the fact she was forced into something can make her a pariah in her social circle.Such issues cannot be addressed by just slamming a few laws but together with a massive programs of counseling and awareness for parents and it can take a complete generation to see changes. Comparing the punishment in this case, it is as if parents are being charged for huge robberies which is not just unjust but also an attractive tool to for the police to blackmail and harass someone.The horrors of the Indian penal code 498a should be kept in view . http://www.498a.org

    In my opinion an appropriate fine should be decided for forced marriage and to support that an unanimous statement from the religious clerics should be enough.

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  • SanaZ
    Nov 15, 2011 - 7:25PM

    So how long it takes for a bill thats approved in NA to be a actual functioning Law???

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  • this happen to men too
    Nov 15, 2011 - 8:17PM

    bring one bill for men too… my parents has forced me to marriage. HELP!!!!

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  • Nov 15, 2011 - 8:22PM

    Finally!

    I was starting to doubt if the bill would ever pass.

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  • Jonzaib
    Nov 15, 2011 - 8:42PM

    Pakistans penal code regarding family laws is nothing more than a piece of paper. A man usually doesnt seeks his wife’s permission before bringing a second wife. Ive never heard of a husband being convicted for getting a second wife without the consent of first one. If we see the real world what value does this bill hold in a male-dominated society ?
    I actually see families having vengeance using their daughters to use the law against the other in-law family.

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  • Raj - USA
    Nov 15, 2011 - 8:54PM

    *WOW !!!!! This is GREAT. Pakistan is really progressing. Everyone should encourage the Government in such great endeavors. *

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  • bangash
    Nov 15, 2011 - 9:09PM

    Imran Khan and PTI would have opposed this bill.

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  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Nov 15, 2011 - 9:11PM

    After 64 years of independence, finally the parliament has decided to protect the women of Pakistan and today passed the bill.

    What the legislators were doing before?

    This is just a fraction of an action. The parliament whose tenure is about to finish should do more. One never knows if the members of the future parliamentarians would put this bill under the carpet.

    The legislation made should remain in the books of law but it should be implemented to curb the menace of men.

    What about the four marriages of men? Do we have a law in the country which is practically implemented or it is restricted in the books of law only.

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  • uday
    Nov 15, 2011 - 9:44PM

    No doubt, this is a revolutionery step in the history of Pakistan. Further there is a need to be supported by this law by police and as well society….

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  • Maryam
    Nov 15, 2011 - 11:33PM

    Thank you very much for this much needed bill.

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  • omar
    Nov 16, 2011 - 12:26AM

    Very good decision.
    True implementation of Quaid Azam’s view: a nation cannot succeed until a woman and men have equal standing.
    PTI would have passed this bill sooner!!

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  • Syed A. Mateen
    Nov 16, 2011 - 12:32AM

    The day men will give equal rights to the women, violence against the gender will be reduced.

    The “Quran” also say that the rights of men and women are equal then why women waited for such a long time to get their rights in Pakistan?

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  • Huma
    Nov 16, 2011 - 1:23AM

    @SanaZ… it has to be passed by the senate amd once thats done its sent to the president for his assent. following that, unless a specific future date is given in the law for the law to start functioning, it usually comes into force at once.

    @JohnB… its like nuns, only in this case they marry off a girl to the Holy Book, which is wrong as no such practice exists in islam. marriage is (a) strictly between a man and a woman and (b) everyone should marry (and not a book). its usually practiced by the very rich so that any lands, etc do not pass out of the family as under islamic law a girl is entitled to her share in inheritance.

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  • Fact
    Nov 16, 2011 - 3:40AM

    One of the best bills to pass because it will help and protect the female character at large but one should question, do we really give rights to our people? “whereas, marrying a girl off to the Quran will end up in imprisonment for seven years and a fine of Rs0.5 million” Do you really have to be in that bucket to get married? We have multicultural society and everyone should have rights to marry a women/men in any religion. We are not here to judge them, neither to force them. It will really come down to individual’s decision

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  • Saira Maryum
    Nov 16, 2011 - 9:58AM

    I believe this is the most awaited bill.

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  • Iftikhar-ur-Rehman
    Nov 16, 2011 - 10:37AM

    Bravo!! One good thing PPP has done!! Now the questiont is will it be implemented?????

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  • Saigeetha
    Nov 16, 2011 - 10:56AM

    Congratulations from India!!. A bold step forward.

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  • MBN
    Nov 16, 2011 - 11:21AM

    Good show! now EVERY marriage will be a conflict resolution. But still its a step.

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  • Salman Sheikh
    Nov 16, 2011 - 11:23AM

    No matter what law bill pass by the NA. It will never going to be implement in Pakistan. Elite class and political brass and its workers is outlaw and out of bound by this law as well as they have been by so many other Laws.Recommend

  • sana naeem
    Nov 16, 2011 - 11:41AM

    well done ppp. thats what we expect 4m a progressive party. keep up the good work, mr.zardari. congratulations

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  • Nov 16, 2011 - 2:12PM

    Women should have all islamic rights,after all Pakistan is an islamic country.

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  • Nov 16, 2011 - 3:27PM

    Very good decision is taken by present Government…..Now Pakistan is moving towards a developed countries……

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  • azhar
    Nov 16, 2011 - 3:30PM

    u r a guy u should have had the guts to say no. life isnt a hindi movie love the other girl and try to be happy with her. if u are miserable then u will also make her life miserable. she left her home for u respect that and live ur wife. @this happen to men too:

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  • Shoaib
    Nov 17, 2011 - 12:23PM

    @Fact:

    Kindly correct your facts:)

    Its not like marrying someone in another religion. Marrying with Quran refers to a local custom where girl is forced to be remained unmarried for rest of his life by tying her knot with holy book.Recommend

  • Nov 18, 2011 - 2:27PM

    There are laws in Pakistan, but the problem lies in implementation due corruption and incompetency by appointing people where they should not be.

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