Sunday September 26, 2021

Domestic Violence - An insidious problem

August 01, 2021

The violence against women and girls is a violation of human rights. It is seen that violence occurs in the public as well as in private places ranging from domestic, harassment, black mailing, honor killing, trafficking, forced marriages, intimate partner violence and assault, and other gender-related killings.

Females play a vital role in the society starting from their own houses in bringing up their children, placing a brick to brick in the foundation of their strong family ties, their role in professional fields and in houses is fully appreciated. Thus, the role of women cannot be ignored today even in the past in history. Whenever a violence occurs, it impacts negative effects in general on the well-being of a female and eventually affects her family, community and the country.

According to Human Rights Watch report 2020, violence against women remained a serious problem throughout Pakistan. Regarding domestic violence, it is reported that 200 per cent cases increased in Pakistan in the span of January-March 2020 and further worsened in COVID-19 lockdowns after March as seen so far. As per United Nations’ Global Database on violence against women, it is reported that in 2020, 24.5% cases in Pakistan falls under lifetime physical or sexual intimate violence, 14.5% falls under physical or sexual intimate partner violence in the last 12 months and 21% in child marriage.

The Article 3 of Pakistan’s Constitution 1973 also emphasises state to ensure elimination of all forms of exploitation and gradual fulfillment of the fundamental rights and principles, from each according to his work and ability. Besides, the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act (PPWVA) includes domestic violence, harassment, economic abuse and cyber crimes, is another protection Act for women's rights in provision of justice, respectful and secure life. In February 2012, Senate of Pakistan unanimously approved the ‘National Commission on the Status of Women Bill 2012’ in regard to protect rights of women against discrimination. In 2002, The National Policy for Development and Empowerment of Women was adopted, comprises a section against violence against women.

The recent Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection Bill 2021) from the Standing Committee on Human Rights presented in Parliament is a great initiative, which is the need of today to stop the violence against females by the dominating actors in society by power. All are looking forward impatiently for the implementation of this Bill. In the report, domestic violence means of all sorts of mental, physical, emotional, economic, sexual abuse committed against the women, girl or a vulnerable person with whom a respondent has a domestic relation that causes physical, mental and psychological harm.

Last year in September, there was a nationwide protest on the demand in police reforms on the Lahore Police Chief statement in the case of a woman’s gang-rape on a highway in Punjab and that woman was placed by herself on a fault by travelling late night along with her minor children without her husband’s permission. Rage among citizens was seen against that publicly announced statement. These sorts of abrupt statements define the already designed discrimination and thoughts against the rights and protection of women in the society. There is a need to raise voice and introduce such Bills where the same nature of violence can be seen on the increase. Federal Minister for Human Rights, Dr. Shireen Mazari is appreciative of the introduction of this Bill and all are looking forward impatiently towards the Bill to get the final implementation by the authorities soon. As seen in society, many females are being dragged into undesirable circumstances that lead to domestic violence on not accepting the demands of in-laws, husbands or other dominating persons of a family. The rights to life, dignity, and non-discrimination are violated by the acts of domestic violence. Besides, the legislative measures are supported in the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Pakistan has introduced policies and laws against domestic violence time to time. But still challenges remain in the implementation. Many women are still not having access to proper authorities due to the pressure and limited resources. There is a need to ensure the safety, protection and recovery of a woman facing domestic violence. There is a need to raise a voice against the undesirable framed circumstances for women. The implementation of recent Bill would definitely make a difference in prevention and responding to violence against women and girls, and additionally empowering them with courage to stand up on undesirable violent behavior. No doubt, there is a need for sharp checks and balances on the police and how they are handling the affairs without any biased conclusion. I think this Bill would not only help in preventing domestic violence; what is needed is a change in mindsets. The effectiveness of measures will be dependent on coherence associated with their designed implementation. As Falvia Agnes (2005) stated that “A law is as good as its implementability, despite the lofty aspirations. The responses to the enactment are polarized, with one section fearing its misuse by an elite class in metro cities and another segment predicting its futility for the mass of rural women saddled with the yoke of patriarchy to which courts are as yet alien”

Dr. Saira Asad

Ph.D. Researcher, Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia,