Time to pass the domestic violence bill

Published: April 12, 2012

So the opposition have raised an objection to the Domestic Violence Bill (DVB) that was supposed to go through in Parliament.

This has delayed the passage of the bill, which was formulated by women’s rights activists in the National Assembly to make it a criminal act to enact violence upon women and children. But in a startling show of resistance, parliamentarians from the JUI-F and the PML-N have refused to bow down in subjugation to the American-Zionist-Indian conspiracy that they believe the bill represents, masquerading under the guise of human rights. “We won’t let Western culture dictate to us,” is the tagline used by the maulvis who want the Bill’s passage delayed and possibly cancelled completely.

What does this even mean? The mind boggles. If ‘western culture’ is opposed to domestic violence, does this mean ‘eastern culture’ is supportive of it? Of course, the answer is no. Domestic violence is not an ‘eastern’ or ‘western’ issue, but a global issue.

The debate on the DVB continues to rage in Pakistan’s parliament and behind the scenes. The Bill has not been thrown out; it continues to be discussed in a parliamentary committee. Apparently there are some technical lacunae which some of the parliamentarians find troublesome, but the greater objection is that its opponents say that the Bill itself is harmful to family structure. On the other hand, the Bill’s supporters say that the technical lacunae can be removed without losing the Bill’s intent to protect women and children against violence enacted in the household.

I’ve read through the Bill in its entirety and honestly can see nothing ‘un-Islamic’ or ‘anti-Pakistan’ or ‘anti-Eastern culture’ in it. At the most, it provides technical and legal procedures and due process under legal guidelines for how to stop domestic violence, harassment, and emotional and mental abuse (such as the withholding of money from a spouse in order to manipulate or control her). If anything, this Bill strengthens Pakistani families, and is completely in line with what Islam outlines as proper behavior between spouses in the sacred space of the home.

According to Marvi Sirmed, who is taking part in a civil society committee on the Bill that’s running parallel to the parliamentary one, The News International misreported that women demonstrators in favor of the Bill “insulted” Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the head of the JUI-F, on the floor of Parliament. What really happened, says Sirmed, is that women demonstrated outside Parliament, raising slogans against Mullah-ocracy (“Mullah gardi nahin chaley gi” or “Mullah-ocracy won’t fly here”). This was in return for Fazlur Rahman’s statement in Parliament that the proponents of the DVB were “home-breakers, shameless, westernised, pursuing a Jewish/westernised agenda”. This kind of bombastic soapboxing, great for headlines and soundbites, is very common in Pakistani politics. Incendiary, provocative and untrue, it has caused us more harm over the years than good.

In a parliamentary committee meeting held to discuss the objections to the DVB last week, representatives of both Maulana Ghafoor Haideri and Ataur Rehman of the JUI-F and Khwaja Saad Rafique of the PML-N attended the meeting, in which the Bill’s proponents and supporters — including Bushra Gohar, Attiya Inayatullah, Yasmeen Rehman and Nafisa Shah, amongst others — explained the necessity of the Bill, answering their questions and clearing their doubts about the Bill’s value and intent. There seemed to be general consensus on the portions of the Bill that criminalise violence against women from all parties, reports Sirmed, and women’s rights activists remain hopeful that the Bill will be presented in Parliament and passed as soon as possible.

As yet, no word on whether the Bill will make it through or not. But with headlines like “In-laws burn woman alive for not bearing a son” (April 11,The Express Tribune), sixty per cent of acid attacks taking place because of domestic disputes (according to Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy), and a persistent patriarchal mindset in which women who are the victims of domestic violence have ‘provoked’ men into beating, burning, and killing them, there is simply no more time to lose.

It’s a tough fight, but respect for women, for Pakistan’s parliament, for democracy, and for its institutions are all being demonstrated in the process of passing this Bill. We have every reason to hope. Perseverance will pay off. And Pakistan will be better off for it in the end.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (25)

  • faraz
    Apr 13, 2012 - 12:10AM

    Everyone should read what medieval mainstream fiqh has to say about the status of women; even modern Islamists would be extremely reluctant to accept that.


  • Pakistani
    Apr 13, 2012 - 12:29AM

    What a shame. Mullahs do not consider domestic violence a crime. Women are only an asset to these people, they are like their slave. Hypocrites. What religion do they follow? Because this is neither Islam nor humanity.


  • A
    Apr 13, 2012 - 12:39AM

    It’s so silly how people talk about cultures being Eastern or western. Having said that, I highly doubt cultures in the west developed by being compared to the east. As if the civil rights movement took place because it would have been too “eastern” if it didn’t. It’s almost as if the words east and west are synonymous with right and wrong. I hope we are able to focus on passing the bill because it is simply the right thing to do instead of the western thing to do.


  • Apr 13, 2012 - 12:54AM

    the passage is only half the battle


  • Apr 13, 2012 - 6:44AM

    The parliament must pass the domestic violence bill as soon as possible. In this age civilized nations do not take violence against women lightly and have made effective laws to discourage this crime which cannot be justified on any pretext. I strongly urge the parliament to pass this law, this will help overseas Pakistani’s have some respect. As for as the mullah’s are considered they may be given a special permit to commit violence against the womenfolk of their families.


  • Apr 13, 2012 - 8:59AM

    Look I cant go to a Nuclear Physicist and lecture him what is right and what is wrong about his knowledge can I. He knows it best. I have not studied Nuclear Physics and I am ill-capable of judging what is un-false or un-truth.

    Similarly, that Mullah knows more about Islam and its teachings more than this Author. If he says the bill in question is against Islam, then it IS against Islam.

    If the bill is pro-protection of women and it opposes Islam, being an Islamic Country, you cant do much, can you.


  • Amarahm
    Apr 13, 2012 - 9:24AM

    The writer so rightly points out “persistent patriarchal mindset in which women who are the victims of domestic violence have ‘provoked’ men into beating, burning, and killing them,…” It is so important for people to realize that violent acts and abuse are due to the loss of self-control, they ARE NOT the fault of the victim of these acts. Awareness should be raised and the laws must made. We only need to look to the example of the prophet Muhammed, may peace and blessings be upon him.


  • faraz
    Apr 13, 2012 - 11:56AM

    Before making a law, first educate the masses so that it isn’t abused as is true for most laws in Pakistan.


  • IZ
    Apr 13, 2012 - 12:24PM

    Wait, these guys are arguing that beating women is part of our religion and culture? And there are commentators on this article who are supporting them? What in the world are these people thinking?


  • Ali
    Apr 13, 2012 - 12:59PM

    Passing a bill is not going to do anything. Domestic violence will not be reduced by 0.0001 percent because of this bill nor will the perpetrators be punished. What is required is a working justice system and efficient police and even with existing laws we can make a big dent (we do have laws against assault which can be equally applied to assault on spouse as well as domestic workers). If that does not happen, pass as many laws as you want the situation will not change. PPP will only use passing of the law for political mileage. PMLN and JI will use opposition of the law for the same.


  • Freeman
    Apr 13, 2012 - 4:51PM

    Even in Western Countries and india also have those sort of Domestic violence Laws still there Domestic Violence is on the increase. Domestic violence is not only in Paksitan its all over the world. Even in America still there are regularly new incidents are happening.

    Any Bill will not do anything until there is a rule of law in the country. Also people need to be educated. Education is very important for awareness and understanding.


  • Freeman
    Apr 13, 2012 - 4:54PM

    @IZ: Where and who is arguing the beating women is our religion and culture??????

    Please stop making things up. In Islam does not support these type of things. Islam does give more respect a woman than any other religion.


  • Afaaq
    Apr 13, 2012 - 5:19PM

    Passing bills do not help where the rule of law is not present.


  • Azmat
    Apr 13, 2012 - 5:44PM

    A complete copy of this bill should be published on internet and distributed to the common people and i believe more than 80 per cent will reject this bill. There are many un-islamic clauses in this bill. Islam gives rights to women but people are trying to exploit Islam and we will not allow to do that. For example one clause is ((( If a husband divorces his wife, she can still live in husband’s house after divorce, and if husband will no allow her to stay their she can go to police for FIR and they have to file this FIR))), Is it Islamic????????Recommend

  • alicia
    Apr 13, 2012 - 6:04PM

    Ok maybe we can debate on those things but what about the main point? If a women is beaten black and blue by her husband than how can islam support that? On one hand we are told Islam respects women etc. on the other hand there is khuli chuti for husbands to do whatever to their wives. Recommend

  • Nitha Noor
    Apr 13, 2012 - 6:10PM

    This is still being DISCUSSED? It should be effective immediately! A major problem with Pakistan is that ACTION doesn’t get taken and discussions don’t end. Of course Islamic laws should be adhered to, but problems like this are swept to the side far too often.


  • Azmat
    Apr 13, 2012 - 6:49PM

    @alicia, you are right, Islam never allows it. After excluding un-islamic clauses, it should definetly be passed. Women are a key part of the society and any mistreatment with them is infact a majore sin. We want a true welfare Islamic state – Pakistan. But the so-called liberal are trying to distrot our religion that we will not allow to anyone. But you did not comment that clause i mentioned in my comment, do u term it Islamic and should it be in the bill??


  • Mubashir
    Apr 13, 2012 - 6:53PM

    @BruteForce: Please read the Quran and decide for yourself. There is no priesthood in Islam, no “experts”. The moment you appoint experts then the question arises, which fiqh, which sect, which interpreation, etc. Is it any surprise that often these experts are at odds with each other

    This is an old argument of “go to the specialist.” Allah says His book is easy to follow and understand.

    Let the parliament members discuss and decide. 99% of them are Muslims and we should not presume they are all ignorant about basics of Islam.


  • Rameez
    Apr 13, 2012 - 7:48PM

    I said it before several time and I’ll say it again. Bann these Islamic parties from main stream politics. Islam should not be dragged into politics. These mullas want to drag Pakistan into stone ages with their barbaric state of mind. One question to all mullas here, if you think this bill is promoting western culture, I want to know if you can name me something that isn’t associated to westerns culture, watching TV is western, you cant even perform Hujj without a passport which is also western , listening to music is western Etc. why aren’t these banned?. Its obvious these mullas who are against this bill are motivated by vote bank and to gain advantage. People who support this bill are blind because they see women as their property.


  • Rameez
    Apr 13, 2012 - 7:56PM

    @ azmat They could be living in a joint family where her husband lives with his wife’s parents house. So if she gets divorced she got the authority to still live in the house since its her parents house. Instead of the girl leaving the house it should be the husband. For example in UK when girls get married from Pakistan the husband has to come over to UK and live with his wife’s parents, if they get divorced the guy has to leave the house not the girl.


  • Niamat
    Apr 13, 2012 - 9:44PM

    @Rameez, Politics is allowed in Islam. Islam does not mean offering prayers and fasting. You need to study Islam first.. brother. and what a silly argument you given on @azmat comment.


  • Rameez
    Apr 13, 2012 - 11:54PM

    @Niamat Dude all I was saying is that Islam should not used as a weapon to gain political advantage it spoils Islam’s image. Cant you see what’s happening in AFG where talibans are using the name of Islam to kill innocent Muslims, I don’t know about you but I call this using Islam as an excuse to kill a innocent muslim. As far as comment I made about azmat is concerned, dude let me tell you its happening in England, when couple get separated the guy gets kicked out since its girl’s parents house. Women should be given more power and im sure Islam allows it . I’m not sure if you aware or not in but in some muslim countries the husband has to put his wage into his wife’s account by law.


  • common pakistani
    Apr 14, 2012 - 6:55PM

    The day Fazl ur Rahman became an authoroty on MY islam, i ll quit my religion. He shouls stick to his stregnth: fighting the $ jihad using other people’s children and always sitting in opposition.


  • Apr 15, 2012 - 1:04PM

    @common pakistani:

    Well, what he says is consistent according to many Muslim Country clergy like in Saudi Arabia, Iran,etc.

    Don’t tell me you have more knowledge about the Islamic Texts than this guy and clergy of Saudi Arabia and Iran.

    But, I like that quitting part.


  • SAK
    Apr 16, 2012 - 6:17PM

    No one supports violence on women….Islam was the one to free the women. And west is the one to quench their lustful desires to get them out. These western funded NGOs are taking our society towards immodesty in the name of women emancipation.

    In Islam women cannot be leaders of the nation..there was no propeht woman…all were men…this is enough evidence to get all women out of the parliament.

    This women emancipation and media are creating an irreversible immodesty in the society….

    There should be separate schools, colleges and Uni for women…no co-education…otherwise educational institutes have become the biggest contributor of illicit sex and immodesty in the name of love affairs and all that…..everyone knows…no evidence needed….just check your wandering eyes and heart…what dirty thoughs these films, songs, dramas has injected in you….

    Otherwise our country will be like US where one woman being raped every 3 minute.


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