Pakistan has a nefarious history of domestic violence that is seldom highlighted in the mainstream media, or in the brief instances where it is brought up little is done to help the victims after the initial media hype has died down.
Pakistan currently ranks in sixth place as the world’s most dangerous country for women. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Pakistan saw a 25% rise in cases of domestic violence. Meanwhile, only 2.5% of reported cases are ever convicted in court.
A recent report titled, “Tracking Numbers: State of Violence Against Women and Children in Pakistan”, highlights that Punjab followed by Sindh has the highest reported instances of child abuse, child labour, child marriages, domestic violence, violence against women, harassment at the workplace, rape, kidnapping and honour killing. The maximum number of cases recorded in kidnapping and violence against women.
The Domestic Violence Bill 2021
The bill was initially moved by Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari on April 19 and is only going to apply to Islamabad. Sindh, KP and Punjab all have their own laws against domestic violence. The Senate passed the Domestic Violence Bill in late June and it only needed the resident’s signature to be turned into law. The bill encompassed domestic violence in far broader terms than ever before. Those found in violation of the clauses of the bill would be punished from six months to three years in jail and fined up to PKR 100,000.
The bill also classified the following actions as instances of domestic violence: threats of divorce or second marriage, invasion of privacy, insults, threats to cause physical pain, character assassination, stalking, forcing or compelling a wife to cohabit with anybody other than the husband (such as in-laws), etc.
The bill also proposes the establishment of a Protection Committee that’ll help report the instances of domestic violence and ensure the collection of data. Moreover, if the bill is passed it’ll ensure prompt hearing of appeals and cases will be decided within 90 days. Furthermore, if women file a complaint the bill will prevent them from being thrown out of their homes even if they don’t own them and will provide alternative living arrangements if the need arises. The accused will also likely be asked to wear a GPS tracker, move out of the house and cease any contact with the complainant.
What Is The Controversy All About?
Earlier this week Babar Awan wrote a letter to National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser seeking a review of the Domestic Violence Bill 2021 by the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).
Involvement Of the CII
The CII is a constitutional body that advises the legislature on whether or not a certain law is repugnant to the injunctions of Islam. Their involvement in the review of the Domestic Violence Bill 2021 isn’t being seen in the best light because of their previous proposals. These include “lightly beating your wife if the need arises” and prohibiting the mingling of men and women in schools, hospitals and offices. Moreover, the CII has previously been under fire for negating the acceptance of DNA tests as primary evidence in rape cases.
No Female Representation In The CII
The CII is a council of 12 men with no female representation despite it being mandated by Article 228 of the Constitution. Therefore, many are calling for the move to be rejected because how can a council, overwhelmingly male, decide the fate of a bill that predominantly concerns women?
Khandani Nizam Ki Tabahi
The hashtag, #WerejectDomesticViolenceBill trended on Twitter and If you’d told us we were living in a dystopian world, we would’ve believed you. Whenever women in Pakistan get closer to getting a tiny fraction of their rights, there’s always a group of people (mostly men) that are vehemently opposed to it and equate it to the demise of family values and traditions. It’s surprising that more people don’t want to safeguard women in this country. It’s like we’d rather see them getting beat up and bruised (and in some gruesome instances killed) rather than provide a safe way out for them.
This bill treats every member of the family as an equal, even the in-laws. This has many people furious because in our society parents are deemed above the rest, apparently even in instances of the law. As Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed stated:
Like Always, Twitter Had A Lot To Say
Many realised the importance of the bill and applauded its proposal.
Many were appalled by the lack of female representation.
Osman Khalid Butt couldn’t comprehend why the bill was surrounded by controversy when it’s just providing protection to women, children and those subjected to violence. We have to agree, we’re just as confused…
Mira Sethi called out Prime Minister Imran Khan or his stance on the bill.
Have you been keeping up with the news? What are your views regarding the bill, do you think it’s going to drastically change the instances of domestic violence in our society or will it be another law that’s not implemented properly? Let us know.