I read this evening on the website for Violence is Not Our Culture about the passing of domestic violence bill in Pakistan. VNC congratulated their partners Baidarie Sialkot and Shirkat Gah and other civil society groups and women’s human rights activists who have been campaigning over the past few years to pass this bill.
Baidarie Sialkot is a non-government and non-profit organization which was established in 1993 by the rural women of UC Roras who were keen to work for the empowerment and development of the women of the area. It carries out its operations without having religious, lingual, political and social discriminations to motivate the rural communities, particularly women, to take an active part in the social developmental process. The organization strives hard to develop women into active, productive and dynamic citizens of the country.
Shirkat Gah literally means a place of participation. It was formed as a non hierarchical collective in 1975 by a group of women with a shared perspective on women’s rights and development.
The organizations’ fundamental goal was to encourage women to play a full and equal role in society by promoting and protecting the social and economic development of women already participating in, or wanting to participate in, the national development.
The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) bill makes violence against women and children an offence carrying jail terms and fines, state media said. It was introduced by Senator Nilofar Bakhtiar and passed unanimously by the upper house of the federal parliament, Pakistan Television reported. It was passed unanimously in the National Assembly, the lower house in parliament almost three years ago in August 2009. It will come into effect after it is signed into legislation by President Asif Ali Zardari.
Under this bill those found guilty of beating women or children will face a minimum six months behind bars and a fine of at least 100,000 rupees ($1,100). In addition to protecting children and women, it provides protection to the adopted, employed and domestic associates in a household.
The law classifies domestic violence as acts of physical, sexual or mental assault, force, criminal intimidation, harassment, hurt, confinement and deprivation of economic or financial resources. In the past if a man beat her wife or children, the police could not arrest him because it was considered a domestic affair. Now, thanks to the passing of this bill, the police can step in and make an arrest.
Human rights groups say that Pakistani women suffer severe discrimination, domestic violence and so-called “honour” killings. This means that a victim is murdered for allegedly bringing dishonour upon her family. I read that in Afghanistan running away from an abusive husband or a forced marriage are considered “moral crimes”, for which women are currently imprisoned. Rape victims are imprisoned because sex outside marriage, even when the woman is forced, is considered adultery, another “moral crime”. I cannot believe that the woman who is abused by her husband is imprisoned. I fail to see how rape can be classified as adultery which is consensual sex between two people outside of marriage. Rape is not about sex. It is a violent act. And rape victims should be protected not treated like criminals. It would be really great if Afghanistan were to pass a similar bill.
It is believed that the spread of Islamist fundamentalism is increasingly isolating the women in Pakistan, especially in the areas where the Taliban are. Thankfully this bill will change things in the Pakistani women’s favor. Men will no longer get away with their crimes.
It is truly a victory for Pakistan and especially the women and children whose rights are finally going to be protected. This is a testimony that awareness + action = change.