Pakistan: Introduction of the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill

Dawn via WUNRN
The bill outlawing domestic violence passed by the National Assembly on August 4 is a step in the right direction.
"The abuse of women and children is endemic in the country, particularly in the domestic sphere where some estimates put the figure over 95 per cent for various forms of physical and emotional violence taken together.
Once enacted into law, the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill will make Pakistan one of the few dozen countries to adopt specific legislation on the issue. The 28-clause bill lays out provisions for protection orders and monetary and other forms of relief for victims, and punishment in the form of fines and jail terms for those who violate protection orders.

The fact that the courts will have to set hearings and give decisions within a stipulated time frame is also of value: justice delayed is justice denied. The bill must be passed by the Senate so that the law can come into force as soon as possible.

Domestic abuse is rampant partly because the lack of legislation is understood as a refusal by the law to recognise violence in the domestic sphere as a crime. As a result, although certain severe forms of abuse merit being treated as assault as defined in the Pakistan Penal Code, such transgressions often go unreported as they are considered a private matter. Bringing domestic violence into the domain of the justice system will promote societal consensus against it.

It is noteworthy that the bill defines a ‘domestic relationship’ as one inclusive of ties through kinship, adoption, joint family, employment and domestic help. ‘Vulnerable’ persons are defined as those at risk because of ‘old age, mental illness or handicap or physical disability or other special reasons’.

The definition is also applied to domestic help. The law would thus extend protection to domestic servants — men, women and children who are abused and whose economic dependence renders them silent. It addresses the plight of family members such as daughters-in-law and stepchildren who are commonly abused at home. It is imperative that vulnerable persons be made aware of their rights and the protection provided by law to safeguard these.

Once the bill becomes law, the federal and provincial governments must immediately constitute the stipulated protection committees and install protection officers.

Awareness campaigns sensitising society at large to the issue of domestic abuse must also be undertaken. Most importantly, this bill must be followed up with further stringent legislation protecting the rights of the vulnerable."

06 August 2009

Source: Dawn via WUNRN