Women Protection Bill won’t mean anything if the law isn’t uncompromisingly implemented

I would be happier if the Punjab government conjures changes in the executive procedures bringing the offenders to swift justice

2016-03-04T15:46:50+05:00 Khadija Khan

Let’s have a big round of applause for those who passed the Women Protection Bill and for those who appreciated it overwhelmingly.

But what about those who are still suffering the trauma of being humiliated by the law and the administration of so-called Islamic Republic of Pakistan? Once you grasp the fact that this particular thinking is rather impregnable in manmade societies, you might understand this paradox.

The struggle for women rights is not new to a country that is ranked as the third most dangerous country for women. Even though I write about, and condemn, women rights abuse I never brand myself as a feminist. When we talk about rights it should be equal for all human beings irrespective of their gender. Because when we specify the gender, we antagonize a large part of the population.

But unfortunately I have to be specific about this issue, because a particular gender is being thrashed and mortified by the authorities and societies simultaneously.

The Women Protection Bill was first passed by the National Assembly of Pakistan on 15 November 2006 to amend the 1979 Hudood Ordinance laws.

In 2004, laws were enacted against honor killing. In 2006, the Protection of Women Act was passed amending two Hadood ordinances. In 2008 the National Assembly passed DVB. In 2010 two laws were passed criminalizing sexual harassment of women. But none of these laws brought any fruit for the protection of women.

In 2011 the Senate unanimously passed two bills: Prevention of Anti-Women Practices and Acid Control and Acid Crimes Prevention and Women Distress and Detention Fund Act 1996 (Amendment) Bill. At that point in time many lawmakers, members of Parliament and the civil society supported this move by demanding strict punishment for the offenders.

These same misapprehensions have been repeating for women rights over the decades. But still the protection of women is far cry for those whose women are protected by all means in their homes with respect and dignity.

Once again with the legislation of a new bill a helpline and shelters are being established and the meaning of protection of women against all kinds of violence is ‘redefined’ by the authorities including abetment of an offence, domestic violence, emotional, psychological and verbal abuse, economic abuse, stalking or cyber crime. 

Undoubtedly, in every aspect the approach of victimizing women in public or private is more appealing and worth hashing out. Often, the uneducated and poor people are blamed for bringing such derogatory attitude toward women to the civilized societies. But we must not exclude the conservative mindset in the elites and clerics. This disgusting approach undermines liberal thinking toward women rights and its protection. It lays unsound foundation for the tumultuous and chaotic society that has no specifications. What’s struck me is the appalling attitude of the concerned authorities. I wonder why we are still unable to put the culprits behind the bars.

I would be happier if the Punjab government conjures changes in the executive procedures bringing the offenders to swift justice. The poor women who have been suffering from the cruel law enforcement agencies and conservative mindset of the society for a long time, would have a moment of relief in their lives.  

The head of independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) hopes that the efficient enforcement will help protect women rights in every sphere of life. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy seems quite hopeful too after receiving appreciation and a couple of (broken) promises from the government and its pudding-head supporters.

Having watched with dismay all these developments here I put a question on the face of such optimism: what about those who have ruined the lives of countless women and escaped the justice under the nose of these authorities? Is there any clause for such people out of 31 clauses of this specific bill?

I can assure you we are near to zero in making progress in this regard, without addressing the long period of violence which spans over decades. Being a rationalist, one can simply not understand the watchword of such laws which are never applicable with its essence.

According to a report published by Aurat Foundation, a women’s rights advocacy group, in 2013 alone more than 5,800 cases of violence against women were reported in Punjab. Reprehensibly, these cases formed 74 percent of the national total that year. Many cases go unregistered and overlooked by the authorities because of influential and rich people. This draws a lethal conclusion regarding protection of women in the country.

Ironically there are many clauses in this bill which were supposed to be enacted prior to this bill and there are still minimum chances of this bill being exercised by the government and the civil society at large.

In Pakistan where the religion and Constitution both promise freedom, liberty, respect and dignity to women, we just criticize the religious scholars like Mufti Naeem for the crime of the whole nation. The silence over women abuse is criminal negligence on the part of the society too. When we have educated and bright people around then why do we let such radicals interpret a religion of peace and serenity?

Pakistan has a democratic form of government and Islamic codes. Despite this fact, violence against women through domestic violence, honor killings, forced marriages, acid attacks, rape and murder remains at its peak.

The concerned authorities adopt a wayward behavior in this regard. No substantial measures have been taken to make women feel safe so far. The Women Protection Bill would serve as nothing but a squandered opportunity without actual enforcement of these laws.

Recently PML-N’s Youth Wing President Adnan Sanaullah was allegedly involved in gang rape of a 15-year-old girl. It is not only condemnable but also sets the criteria of the ruling class for choosing rapacious persons who disguise as a leader in Pakistan.

To my mind, this case and its conclusion must be an example for those who do not respect women and are not ready to give them their due respect. But unfortunately it is an example for the women of every class of our society that you are no longer safe now as your guardians have turned into ogres.

The way the concerned authorities watered down the case, and its importance, was clearly noticeable as the media also become quiet instead of following up.

This attitude encourages the people like Adnan to disrespect every single woman regardless of her religion, social status and age.

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