A praiseworthy legislation


WEB DESK: The Punjab Assembly deserves to be applauded for passing the “Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Bill, 2015”, rightly being described as historic. It is a first and comprehensive piece of legislation that provides women protection against a wide-range of offences through a proper implementation mechanism.

Aside from physical violence the list of offenses includes emotional, psychological, and economic abuse, stalking, cyber crime, as well as abetment. Under a residence order, a victim will be able to seek residence order to stay in her house or have the defendant provide an alternative accommodation, if she so desires.

Violence Against Women Centres (VAWCs) are to be set up where victims can lodge FIRs. Like the practice in civilised societies, if a woman is harassed or stalked she can claim a restraining order to prevent the defendant from communicating with her or to stay at a certain distance from her. GPS tracked electronic bracelets-anklets are to be introduced to ensure enforcement. The bill also provides for a “District Women Protection Committee” to supervise the VAWCs and shelter homes, and also ensure that all cases registered in any of the district police stations are referred to these centres.

Violence against women in this patriarchal society is rampant. Thousands of cases involving so-called honour killings, rape, acid burning, torture, vani, karo kari, forced marriages and others are registered each year. Such cases of extreme violence are already a cognisable offense under the Pakistan Penal Code though implementation is a lot less than satisfactory. In the case of purported honour killings, for instance, a close relative such as brother, father or uncle is always the killer, and gets pardoned under the law. There has been no legal recourse against domestic violence except in case of stove burning at the hands of a victim’s in-laws, which in any event gets reported because the parents usually take her to the hospital; if she dies at home the cause of death cannot remain a secret. Sadly, there are many otherwise sane people who think it normal to subject women to cruel treatment.

The present bill approved by the provincial cabinet back in May 2015 has since been sitting in the provincial assembly unattended because many legislators, including members of the ruling party, found it objectionable. The only thing that could be a bit disagreeable perhaps is the provision under which a victim can seek monetary relief from the defendant to meet expenses occurred and losses suffered. In many instances, a defendant may not be in a position to offer monetary compensation.

The new law is not expected to bring a sudden radical change but it surely will encourage victims, especially with its sound execution plan, to seek protection. It needs to be effectively publicised so as to create awareness among victims about their rights and availability of legal defence. It is hoped the other provinces will soon follow suit.

Source: Business Recorder