A milestone achieved for Pakistani women, a huge sigh of relief, and a new hope to live fearlessly as a woman in Pakistan
I think weâ€™ve all heard stories of domestic violence at home, or know somebody whoâ€™s been affected by it.Â A lot of times we would be at a loss as to what to do legally, we could give honest advice, tell their parents or elders, but there were no legitimate steps we could take to protect them from the abuser. Even if we called the police, they would deem it a family affair and would many a times say they could not take part in a domestic matter.
Even if you removed the abused from the abuser, they did not have any legal repercussions to be afraid of. Pakistan has been deemed one of the worst countries in terms of womenâ€™s rights, and one of the most male-dominated countries to live in, according to American womenâ€™s magazine Marie Claire. According to the Aurat Foundation, a womenâ€™s rights advocacy group, in 2013 there were more than 5,800 cases of violence against women reported in Punjab alone and, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, approximately 70% of Pakistani women have been subjected to domesticÂ violence.
On February 24th, the Punjab Assembly unanimously passed the Protection of Women Against Violence Bill, which was a huge collective sigh of relief for womenâ€™s rights activist.
Once a woman calls for help, police and case-workers have the right to enter the house and help her leave without her husband’s consent. In some instances, the husband will be asked to leave. Suspects could be ordered to wear a GPS tracking device that would monitor their whereabouts. Those attempting to tamper or remove the devices will be jailed for up to one year and fined between Rs. 50,000 to Rs 200,000
It has been reported that the bill defines violence as â€œany offence committed against a woman including abetment of an offence, domestic violence, emotional, psychological and verbal abuse, economic abuse, stalking or a cyber crime.â€
Additionally, there have been measures taken to make the implementation of the bill more solid. The Punjab government has issued a toll-free helpline for women, and have establisted protection and residential sectors for victims. Once a woman calls for help, police and case-workers have the right to enter the house and help her leave without her husbandâ€™s consent. In some instances, the husband will be asked to leave. Suspects could be ordered to wear a GPS tracking device that would monitor their whereabouts. Those attempting to tamper or remove the devices will be jailed for up to one year and fined between Rs. 50,000 to Rs 200,000. Defendants right to apply for an arms license or to procure weapons will also be revoked, and the weapons already registered in their names will have to be submitted to court. Family courts will have seven days of the complaint within which to hear the case, and it will be mandatory for judgesÂ to make a definitive ruling within 90 days.
Womenâ€™s rights activists are exhilirated by the news of this bill, and deem it a huge step forward in empowering women in Pakistan. â€œThe Womenâ€™s Rights Bill is a step forward for this country, and is in light of what Quaid-E-Azam wanted for Pakistan. The bill is a good attempt, but there is more dissemination needed of how it will be implemented without which it will not be very effective,â€ said twice-elected Education Minister, and respected womenâ€™s rights activist Shaheen Attiqur Rahman.
Maulana Fazlur Rahman told reporters in Hyderabad that he felt sorry for husbands in PunjabÂ
Since its passage in the Punjab Assembly, there have been severe backlashes in reference to the bill,Â with clerics calling it â€œUn-Islamicâ€ and being in conflict with the Pakistani Constitution. They claim that it clashes with Sharia Laws and it makes man feel insecure. Maulana Fazlur Rahman told reporters in Hyderabad that he felt sorry for husbands in Punjab and that these laws belong to a Western society.
Despite the expected backlash, the morale that Punjabi women have been enjoying has not been broken and if anything it has made our will to live fearlessly even stronger.
â€”By Nishay Shafi