Violence Against Women: Few women report violence despite new laws

Published: November 26, 2013
"If a husband hits his wife, she warns him that the next time he hits her, he can be sent to jail," Lawyer Maliha Lari. PHOTO: FILE.

"If a husband hits his wife, she warns him that the next time he hits her, he can be sent to jail," Lawyer Maliha Lari. PHOTO: FILE.

KARACHI: When Tasleem’s nephew threw acid at her in Punjab Colony in July this year, the case was immediately reported at the local police station. However, what the officer did not do while registering the case was to put in the correct section of the crime in the FIR.

Despite punishments and sections available in the law under the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill passed in 2011, the police only presented it as an attempt to murder. “She only had acid marks on her arms and neck and nowhere else. There was no need to use the acid section,” was the weak answer of the investigation officer Nazeer Hussain, who chose to put section 324 instead of acid sections, such as 336-A and 336-B in the FIR.

For years, social activists have been struggling for bills pertaining to women issues. Yet even when made and passé, these laws have yet to be put to test. The police do not have figures but SSP Amir Farooqi said that the number of cases being reported under women-related laws are very low.

Some of the bills passed in recent years are the Protection against harassment of Women at workplace 2010, Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill, and more recently the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill 2013.

Lawyer Maliha Lari, who helped make the domestic violence bill, said there is a lack of awareness amongst the police to register the cases under proper sections. “The police have no information what laws are passed and what sections need to be inserted. Ideally, the government should pass on all bills to police stations once they have been made.”

She feels that because of wrong sections in the FIR, such as in Tasleem’s case, the whole process of evidence and investigations changes, as well as the punishment procedure. “It’s easy to prove that the attack was an acid attack but difficult to ascertain whether the man had the intention to kill. There is a specific punishment for specific laws but sadly they’re not being used.”

The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill 2013 was passed by the Sindh Assembly on this year’s International Women’s Day. But, the committees to monitor violence have yet to be setup by the women’s development department and the law ministry.

It is unclear what section in the Pakistan Penal Code pertains to domestic violence, and not many women go to police stations to lodge complaints. Lari feels that while the social environment has yet to push women enough to take stands, one positive change that has emerged is that women are using the law as a tool for social protection. “If a husband hits his wife, she warns him that the next time he hits her, he can be sent to jail.” On sexual harassment of women at workplace, Mahnaz Rahman of the Aurat Foundation says that no prominent cases have come to them in Sindh. “The cases we had were in Punjab and that too in universities, but none so far in Sindh.” Section 509 is the one in the PPC for this law.

Both SSP Amir Farooqi and Rahman feel that women are also shy to complain about the crimes committed by the men of the house, and they need social support. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 125 women have been killed in different violence incidents in Karachi so far since January to October, while 56 were killed by their relatives.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2013.

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