Lahore: The Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act 2015, passed by the Punjab Assembly, has rung all the wrong bells with the religious organizations who consider the Act overwhelmingly pro-women.

On Tuesday, March 15, 2016, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI)Pakistan’s oldest politico-religious organization convened an All-Parties Conference at its headquarter in Mansoora, Lahore, to denounce the law and to ask the government to retract it.

The law provides protection to women against domestic violence that include psychological, sexual and economic abuse. The law also covers stalking and cyber crime.

A system consisting toll-free number, shelter homes, women protection committee and centers at the district level, and a GPS bracelet to keep track of the whereabout and activities of the offenders has been developed to give spine to the law.

According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan cases of violence against women increased from 5,391 in 2012 and 5,387 in 2013 to 5,967 in 2014 and 6,505 in 2015. The conviction rate fell to 1pc in 2015 when only 81 offenders were punished as against 378 in 2012, 316 in 2013, and 211 in 2014.

The loudest protest has come from Maulana Fazalur Rehman’s party, Jamiat Ulema e Islam(F). He held a meeting with the Prime Minister of Pakistan who according to Maulana has given him assurance to give a second look to the law.

“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif heard our reservations against the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act 2016. He promised to amend the law so that it doesn’t contravene the teachings of the holy Koran,” Fazl told journalists at his residence.

Punjab Law Minister, Rana Sanaullah, told News Lens Pakistan that the Chief Minister (CM) Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif had no intention to either amend or withdraw the Women Protection Act. He retorted, “We had asked the religious parties to point out sections they consider un-Islamic or unconstitutional in the Act.”

“So far we have not received anything from them. The religious parties have been against women rights since ages. They have been against women’s freedom of movement even if that meant seeking education or working outside the home. The religious organizations are using Koran and Sunnah to play to the gallery,” said Sanaullah.

In a strange condemnation, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), a constitutional body mandated to give recommendations to parliament on the Islamic counters of a given law, termed the Women Protection Act against the spirit of Two Nation Theory.

In a one-on-one conversation with News Lens Pakistan, at Chamba House, during his visit to Lahore, Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani, the Chairman CII, defended this queer remark saying, “The Two Nation Theory classified the Muslims from the non-Muslims, and if any effort is made to make the Muslims tread the path of the non-Muslims, as this law endeavors to, it would be counted against the spirit of the Two Nation Theory.”

Shirani further said that instead of devising a law that protects women only, the government should make a law that protects the entire family. In this way, he contended, everyone in the family would be responsible for the dignity and respect of the other.

In another objection, Shirani said that the law would damage the sanctity of a home because it gives women the right to step out of their home and complain about their husbands or other family members.

To find out, whether police, irrespective of any particular law protecting women against domestic violence, receives and entertains complaints from women subjected to domestic violence, News Lens Pakistan, met the Station House Officer of R.A Bazar Lahore Cantt, Qamar Abbas at his office.

“I have encountered enormous, such cases in my 25 years of police service. I would say that almost 20 percent of the cases are about domestic violence. In a cognizable offence, the first information report is written, and the culprits are produced before the magistrate. In a non-cognizable offence, we try to mediate between the parties to some settlement,” said Abbas.

Though the police officer was not convinced if this new law would make any difference, he did agree that those women who have been reluctant to approach police station might, in the presence of this law, feel secure going to the District Women Protection Centres, spearheaded by a women protection officer, to lodge her complaint.

Tabinda Islam, a lawyer and Vice-President Supreme Court Bar Association, when quired by News Lens Pakistan about the general impression regarding the Women Protection Act being un-Islamic, she vehemently disagreed.

“Islam forbids violence against women, and if such a practice is prevalent in our society, then a law to that effect should have been welcomed rather than condemned by the religious organization. A person who does not intend to thrash his wife should have no qualms about this law,” she said.

There is, the lawyer said, nothing in this law that makes it against men or ‘husbands,’ as the religious outfits are trying to portray it.

Islam, however, has been concerned about the divorce rate going up in case a woman touches a nerve with her husband who is mostly egoist and consider a woman inferior to him,” said Tabinda.

The Punjab Assembly Women’s Caucus, Chairperson, Dr Farzan Nazir, told News Lens Pakistan in a telephonic interview that we had taken the religious parties into confidence before putting the bill on the table. “Their clamor is mind-boggling and misplaced at the same time.”

Punjab Assembly Women’s Caucus has been instrumental in rallying support for and getting the Women Protection Act passed with majority votes.

Uzma Bukhari, a member of Punjab Assembly Women’s Caucus, while talking to News Lens Pakistan, snubbed the religious parties for their double standards. “The committee formed by the CM, headed by Law Minister, Rana Sanaullah, conducted a meeting with the religious parties where they agreed to support the Act, however, the next day they changed their stance at Mansoora. It shows that the criticism of the Act is just a political gimmick and nothing else.”


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