Aug 07, 2009
Pakistan has approved a pathbreaking law that recognises domestic violence as a crime. In a country where many cases of abuse go unreported, the legislation, apart from punishing the guilty, will also provide monetary and other forms of relief for victims.
Islamabad: Pakistan moved towards outlawing domestic violence when lawmakers approved a bill this week that will punish those found guilty of beating women or children with jail terms and fines.
The law was passed unanimously in the lower house of parliament or national assembly, said Yasmi Rehman from the main ruling Pakistan People's Party, hailing what she called a "big day" for Pakistani women.
It will come into effect after the senate (upper house of parliament) approves the law and President Asif Ali Zardari signs it into legislation.
Those found guilty of beating women or children would face a minimum six months behind bars and a fine of at least 100,000 rupees.
"Domestic violence against women is not considered a major offence in our society. I hope this bill will provide protection to our women against all types of violence in their homes and living places," Rehman said.
Besides children and women, the bill also provides protection to the adopted, employed and domestic associates in a household, she said.
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.
"A magistrate will hear a case of domestic violence after its registration and a decision will be announced within 30 days," said Rehman.
"This is a milestone in the history of Pakistan women's freedom," she added.
Marvi Memon, an MP from the opposition Pakistan Muslim League, welcomed the bill and called on the government to ensure the law was implemented.
"We want to put pressure on the government to implement this legislation in the true letter and spirit, despite social, feudal and tribal norms which do not facilitate women's empowerment," she said.
Human rights groups say Pakistani women suffer severe discrimination, domestic violence and "honour" killings - when a victim is murdered for allegedly bringing dishonour upon her family.
The groups add that women are increasingly isolated by spreading Islamist fundamentalism in Pakistan, where the Taliban threaten parts of the northwest.
Rights activists hailed the bill, for which they lobbied for some time.
"This is good news. Introducing a law against domestic violence was long a demand for this country's women," said Farzana Bari, a women's activist who said that as many as one in three women were subject to domestic violence.
"In our society, many women and children are not protected even inside their houses, this law will help them," she added.
Iqbal Haider, co-chairman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said it was a "positive" development.
"This is a much needed law for containing and eradicating the menace of domestic violence rampant in our society," said Haider.
This article was originally sourced from AFP.