Demonstrations were held in support of the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act 2016 in Lahore and Faisalabad on Saturday.
In Lahore, activists from the Women’s Action Forum, All Pakistan Trade Union Federation and a Joint Action Committee of several non-governmental organisations gathered at Charing Cross.
The protesters chanted slogans against the religious parties opposed to the law and some members of the Council of Islamic. A joint statement issued at the demonstration urged the provincial government to not give in to the pressure being brought by religious parties to revoke or amend the law. It said the law had been unanimously passed by the provincial assembly and, thus, reflected the will of the people. “A decision to undo the law will be a violation of democratic values,” it said.
The statement condemned the clerics for opposing a law that had kindled some hope among women that the government was concerned about their condition. It said scores of women were subjected to violence every day in the province. Referring to a report compiled by the Investigation DIG’s office, the statement said that on average six cases of women’s murders, eight of sexual assault, 11 of physical abuse and 32 of kidnapping were reported to police every day. “These are the cases reported to the police. The ground reality is much worse,” it said. It said that those opposing the law for political expediency should rethink their stance. It urged them to read the law and hold a debate over the issue rather than issuing threats.
The statement praised the women lawmakers and said that the law had been passed because of their untiring efforts. It said the use of foul language by some religious leaders with reference to women lawmakers was condemnable.
Irfan Chaudhry, one of the protesters, said instances of domestic violence were widespread in the society. He said there was a need to take practical measures to change the state of affairs. “I fail to understand how anyone can oppose a law against domestic violence,” he said.
The participants included members of the Democratic Students Association, the Feminist Collective and the Awami Workers’ Party.
In Faisalabad, scores of protesters gathered in front of the Press Club and chanted slogans in support of the law.
The demonstration was arranged by the South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAPP).
SAPP director Amena Zaman said the law should not be made into a religious issue. “The law will help tackle a social problem. Let us keep our religious beliefs away from the issue,” she said.
She said opposition to the law was un-Islamic. She said the civil society organisations would launch a country-wide effort in support of the law.
She said the law had been passed by an elected assembly. It was now the responsibility of the government to implement it, she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2016.