A landmark bill seeking to deter all forms of domestic violence against women has reached a serious deadlock following stiff resistance by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F). Claiming that the bill undermines Islamic values, the party announced on Friday it would fight “tooth and nail” against it.
Strong resistance by opposition parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), had forced the government on April 4 to defer the bill, introduced in 2009, which sought heavy jail terms for those involved in violence against women.
“We cannot adopt a bill which is a ditto copy of a bill on women passed by India’s parliament,” observed JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman, when lawmakers, under the leadership of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) senior leader Syed Khurshid Shah, met to forge a consensus on the issue.
Fazl claimed the bill promotes Western culture and values rather than Islamic ones. “NGOs continue to promote the culture which keeps women away from Islam and that is not acceptable to us.”
The JUI-F chief termed it an effort to destroy the dignity of women in Islam and urged followers to stand united against those who wanted to impose Western culture in Pakistan.
“We know women’s rights better than the PPP… Western culture cannot be promoted under the pretext of protection in Islamic states,” maintained the JUI-F chief.
On Thursday, lawmakers across party lines failed to evolve any consensus to amend a controversial clause of the aforementioned bill passed by the National Assembly in 2009. Since the bill was not adopted by the Senate in 90 days, rules stipulate it can only be passed in a joint sitting of Parliament.
PPP MNA Yasmeen Rehman had tabled the bill earlier stressing the institutionalisation of measures required to protect women and children from domestic violence.
Despite PPP senior minister’s efforts, the opposition could not be convinced into contributing positive suggestions so that the bill could be tabled once again before the joint sitting next week.
“The PPP-led government has always been a strong supporter of women’s rights but some forces (followers of conventional schools of thought) are dead against the passage of this landmark bill,” Khurshid Shah told The Express Tribune after the meeting.
PML-N, the top opposition party in the National Assembly, also dragged its feet over the bill when MNA Khawaja Saad Rafiq implied that external forces had stakes in the passage of its controversial clauses. He refrained from explaining his thoughts further.
The government has long wanted to move the overdue Domestic Violence Bill, 2009. The opposition, however, maintains that the bill cannot be passed by Parliament until further amendments are made to its clauses. “We are not against passage of this bill, but we want some changes in clauses.”
The lawmakers will now hold a meeting over the issue on Monday.
Friday also witnessed opposing protest rallies outside Parliament by, both, human rights activists and Islamic parties. Rights activists chanted slogans in favour of the passage of the bill, while religious activists raised slogans opposing it. Harsh words were traded by both sides during the demonstrations as they also raised slogans against each other. The protesters were eventually dispersed by the local police.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2012.