Speakers at a seminar on Monday said the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act 2016 was not geared against men.
Rather, they posited, that it would ensure national development by facilitating the equal participation of both sexes in economic and social development. Salman Sufi of the Chief Minister’s Special Monitoring Unit (SMU) said the provincial government had not been considering any move to amend the Act. However, Sufi said, the Act could be further reinforced if any pertinent recommendations were presented by religious leaders or legal experts. He said the Act was against violence and not men. “The word man is not even mentioned in its text,” he said. Sufi said the Act was introduced at the Provincial Assembly (PA) after deliberating over it with lawmakers from all political parties over eight months.
The SMU’s senior member said the government could not be expected to remain a silent spectator in face of the rising incidence of violence against women. Sufi said the conviction rate in such instances was extremely low. Rather than imperil marriages, he said, it would facilitate mediation and dispute resolution.
Sufi said the Act was conspicuous from previous legislation as it provided quick civil remedies for victims of violence. This, he said, included restraining and financial orders. Sufi also answered students’ questions on the occasion.
Population Welfare Minister Zakia Shahnawaz said men and women were equal. She said those rapping the Act should try to understand it. Shahnawaz said the provincial government was committed to securing and affording all rights to women. She counselled women students to strive to obtain as much education as possible, saying that would become their real strength.
Government College University (GCU) Vice Chancellor (VC) Hassan Amir Shah praised the government for striving to secure women’s rights. He said women should be empowered and encouraged to work shoulder-to-shoulder with men for national progress and prosperity. Shah said a man who resorted to violence against a woman was not chivalrous.
GCU Political Science Department Chairman Khalid Manzoor Butt said propaganda against the Act seemed to be politically motivated. “In a first, a law providing protection through an in-built implementation mechanism to ensure speedy justice to women victims of violence has been introduced,” he said. Manzoor said the government needed to do more to ensure the provision of equal opportunities to women.
English literature student Hafza Rathor said 70 per cent of women the world over were subjected to violence according to a United Nations report. This, she said, meant that women across the globe—from New York to Lahore—were susceptible to being abused.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2016.