With nearly three months left for the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly to complete its tenure, the fate of the Domestic Violence Bill remains uncertain.
There were several attempts made this year to criminalise domestic violence, but the bill repeatedly faced obstacles.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MPA Noor Sahar presented a bill titled ‘Women Violence Bill 2012’ on August 31 this year. A heated debate erupted among the members of the house, with religious parties severely criticising the proposal.
The bill was then handed over to a special committee of the assembly. In a meeting of the committee on November 14, Mufti Kifayatullah from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam- Fazl lashed out at the bill and termed it “anti-Islamic” and against Pukhtun traditions.
The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill 2009 passed by the National Assembly to give protection and justice to women in cases of abuse was also thwarted because of the objections raised by the Council of Islamic Ideology.
Since then, the issue has been delegated as a provincial matter, requiring all assemblies to pass the law for their respective provinces. This not only makes the possible passage of the law difficult and complicated, but also reflects a lack of interest in addressing an issue concerning nearly half the population of Pakistan.
Rights organisations’ take
Research scholar Dr Rakhshanda Parveen said that the perception about decrease in violence against women is baseless because most cases go unreported. The decline in 2010 was witnessed due to the devastating natural disasters because of which local administrations in various remote areas could not perform their usual duties, she said.
An Aurat Foundation report titled Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women 2012, which was launched on December 13, stated a number of pro-women laws that were passed from 2009 to 2012.
The laws include the Protection against Harassment at the Workplace Act 2010 and three amendments in criminal law, which focus on harassment against women, deprivation of inheritance, forced marriages, exchange of women in settlement of cases, marriage of women to the Quran and acid crimes, among others.
However, despite the laws, there is little relief from honour killings. According to another survey conducted in Nowshera, no FIR was registered against honour killings in any police station from 2005 till 2010.
The report states that practices of violence against women violate Articles 4, 8, 9, 10, 10(a), 14, 25, 34 and 37 of the Constitution, which guarantees legal protection, right to life, liberty and justice to all citizens.
The Criminal Law Amendment Act 2004 has failed to check cases of honour killings as murderers continue to enjoy impunity because of the availability of relief from the Qisas and Diyat laws, which have made murder a compoundable offence.
“The state needs to fulfil its responsibilities after the introduction of Qisas and Diyat laws in the country,” said legal expert Shahnawaz Khan.
Two of the Hudood Ordinances that were responsible for sending hundreds of women to prison on charges of sexual relationships outside marriage were amended by the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act in 2006. However, two other ordinances (the Offences against Property and Prohibition Ordinances), which are equally discriminatory, remain untouched.
A NGO, Aware Girl, is also working to curb violence against women. The organisation established a helpline for the cause in June 2012.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2012.