The Punjab Assembly unanimously approved the Protection of Women Against Violence Bill, calling for an end to all criminalities against women, such as, domestic violence, acid attack, rape, psychological and economic abuse, stalking, and cyber-crimes. The 31 clauses of the new bill provide an efficient system for complaint registration and penalties for offenders.
According to the clauses, a toll-free helpline (UAN number) will be launched to receive direct complaints. It also calls for the creation of protection centres and shelters homes, where conflicts and misunderstandings can be settled and help partners reach reconciliation.
Under the law, those convicted of life-threatening crimes against women will have to wear a GPS bracelet and any illegal meddling will be dealt with a GPS tracker that can result in one year imprisonment and a fine up to Rs200,000. The law further states,
“To protect life, dignity and reputation of the aggrieved, a woman protection officer may direct the defendant to move out of the house for 48 hours.”
Moreover, any unfair accusation and fabricated complaint can result in a three months imprisonment or a fine of Rs100,000. The bill also directs family courts to fix hearings within seven days of a complaint.
Overall, it is a historic bill to protect women against all evils and crimes. The well-organised implementation will definitely help females by guaranteeing that criminals will be held for their criminalities and a malevolent individual will not go unpunished. The new law emerges as a saving mechanism for prevention, combating and eradication of violence against women as well as for security, justice and reintegration of the mentally and physically tortured victims.
The bill has magnificently covered all the critical must-have consolidated statutes dealing with violence and crafted the complaint system easier than ever. It’s certainly a milestone towards women rights, empowerment and gender equality.
However, there is a section of society that strongly opposed the new protection bill and considered it an attempt to authorise secularism, deteriorate cultural values and vulgarity in the country.
Punjab government’s spokesman Zaeem Qadri stated that this bill collides with our social setup and involving man in such a way would affect the domestic lives.
Furthermore, a prominent cleric Mufti Muhammad Naeem also openly criticised the protection law by terming it against our culture and Islamic Sharia. He accused the Sharif brothers for promoting secularism and liberalism by following western values. Surprisingly, the party that opposed this bill the strongest was PTI.
I failed to understand the hue and cry over a simple straightforward law for merely the protection of women. The people who think that curbing such violent acts would collide with our social setup and cultural values are actually the believers of patriarchal societal structure. Such criticisms are a way of reinforcing male supremacy, thus creating notions of religion, culture and traditions justifying the male domination and longing to control women lives. This sort of mind-set puts women in an extremely vulnerable situation.
The rate of violence against women throughout the country paints a very gloomy picture. There are instances where husbands have attacked their wives and cut their noses, lips and ears after domestic disputes. Such incidents occurred in different cities such as Faisalabad, Abbottabad, Bahawalpur, Mansehra, Naushero Feroze and various parts of Balochistan.
In Pakistan, women are murdered merely for giving birth to girls, burnt in fake incidents of stove burning, suffer acid attacks, rapes, spousal abuse, forced abortions, forced prostitution, acute domestic violence and swapped for settlements. Unfortunately, most of these crimes go unreported due to lack of women independence, social acceptance and weak legal and justice framework. These dreadful instances highlight the sufferings of women in the name of cultural and religious norms that male dominated societies endorse.
In our society, women are considered secondary, so they must be obedient and subservient. This passive role is levied by the conformist society in so many different ways – via society’s traditional beliefs, ancestral customs and religious codes. Conventional traditions and attitudes fabricated on artificial rule-books of culture, religious and sociological doctrines make it extremely challenging for a woman to stand up against such practices.
Initiating a domestic violence law for the protection of women is not mental slavery of the west. Cutting off women’s facial features are not social values in any part of the world. No violent act is justified nor reinforced in the teachings of Islam. Likewise, such legislation cannot destroy the family system or domestic lives.
There is a huge difference between religious beliefs and man-made values. In this modern and technological age, women are subjected to various forms of gender-based violence, unscrupulous control, sexism and misogyny reinforced by patriarchal theories. Social custom is a euphemism for deep-rooted patriarchy that condones violence against women. Everything that stresses women’s respect and dignity is in fact an incipient provocation for strong patriarchal mind-set.
The rotation of shameless crimes won’t be interrupted till criminals are not penalised. All male members of society are not accountable for violence and crime against females, but they must use all means to cease it. Intensive campaigns that alter the significance to tackling men’s approach rather than women’s attitude are pivotal so that deep-rooted cultural change uplifts women’s status on the basis of humanitarianism and not on man-made biased social customs. This can only be possible if each and every law is enforced effectively with strong commitment.