The passage of the Domestic Violence Bill is fast becoming a fleeting dream.
The bill, first tabled in 2009, was seen as an unprecedented move to protect women against domestic violence. Unfortunately, a deadlock persisted over the bill in the joint sitting of parliament.
Lawmakers rebuked attempts to amend the bill, which is seeking deterrence to all forms of domestic violence against women.
Repeated attempts by MNAs Yasmeen Rehman and Attiya Inayatullah to win over the support of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman failed. The JUI-F is the only party which opposed the bill in parliament, claiming that it undermines Islamic values, and announced it would fight ‘tooth and nail’ against it.
“Passage of this landmark bill, at least in 2012, has become a dream now,” Yasmeen Rehman said. The incumbent government has already passed some landmark bills, like the Acid Control and Acid Prevention Act 2011, Sexual Harassment at Work Place Act 2010, Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act 2011 and Women in Distress and Detention Act 2011, she recalled.
Certain women parliamentarians from the treasury benches blamed the opposition for their lackadaisical attitude and ‘personal egos’, which pushed it the bill into a cold storage.
They told The Express Tribune that they were considering various options to get it passed. Some of the options are: 1) To introduce a fresh bill on domestic violence; 2) To ask President Asif Ali Zardari to convene a joint sitting of parliament for tabling the bill; 3) To table in the National Assembly a similar pending in the Senate to ensure its approval without any delay.
However, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MNA Zahid Hamid claimed his party was contributing to evolve a consensus as soon as possible. “Passage of this bill will empower women. This is exactly what my party believes in.”
JUI-F Senator Dr Muhammad Ismail Buledi hoped his party’s legal team would prepare its recommendations soon. He also hoped the committee reviewing the original draft bill would entertain these recommendations. “We are not against the passage of this bill. We want deletion of some of the clauses that promote Western culture and are identical to the Indian Domestic Violence Act” he said.
According to the opposition parties, deputing a police officer for women was also a meaningless clause. They also pointed out sub-clauses which they believed to be pointless. These sub-clauses are: 1) Harassment as defined in the criminal code; 2) Vandalism as defined in section 425 of the criminal code against the property of the aggrieved person; 3) Stalking, which includes: i) Loitering outside or near the building or place where the aggrieved person resides or works; ii) Willful or negligent abandonment of the aggrieved person.
The JUI-F also stated that the ‘Monetary Relief” clause did not follow Islamic laws. The penalty for breaching the protection order clause was also a sticking point. The lawmakers were divided over the duration of punishment for breaching the clause.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2012.