Tuesday September 21, 2021

Domestic violence

The past few days have brought into glaring spotlight Pakistan’s massive violence against women epidemic. This has also brought back into the national conversation the proposed law on domestic violence The proposed law, which covers only the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and has a limited scope in itself – since after the 18th Amendment such matters fall under the provincial domains – is currently with the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) after the adviser to the PM on parliamentary affairs, Babar Awan, wrote a letter to the National Assembly speaker seeking review of the bill. Meanwhile, the existing provincial laws on domestic violence have their own shortcomings, some of which have made the laws nearly toothless.

The National Assembly passed the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill 2021 in April this year and then the Senate of Pakistan passed it in June with certain minor alterations. With these changes, the bill once again landed in the National Assembly. Therefore, the bill has been lingering on for quite a while now. Civil society and human rights organizations have been calling for the passage of such a bill for years, but no government has displayed the required seriousness in this matter. Repeated delays have rendered the entire exercise of legislation hampered on one pretext or another.

The CII had recommended drastic changes in a bill on domestic violence in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2016 and termed several of its provisions as contrary to Islamic injunctions. After a delay of nearly four years, the KP Assembly passed a much-diluted KP Domestic Violence against Women (Prevention and Protection) Act 2021 in January this year. The federal law passed by the Senate and the NA has much in common with the laws enacted in Balochistan and Sindh. These laws are per experts better than those passed in KP and Punjab. The Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act became a law in 2016. Balochistan, Punjab, and Sindh passed their laws without ever referring them to the CII. Only the KP government had approached it, and now the federal government is following. Since this is a matter of concern for all victims of domestic violence, the bill must become a law without further ado. We cannot afford to delay these matters anymore. The women of the country have been gaslighted, brutalized, ignored over the decades. It is time the law and justice system works towards protecting women survivors.