Since the establishment of the Women’s Caucus in the National Assembly, Pakistan has seen a significant increase in pro-women legislation, and this week, we saw another positive development.

The Punjab Women’s Protection Authority in its maiden meeting on Thursday has decided to establish special courts for hearing cases of crime against women in all districts in the province. These courts would be presided over by women judges and prosecutors, specifically trained in the subject, and they would be stationed in the centres across the province.

This development is certainly an interesting idea. It is an encouraging sign that the Punjab government is taking the issue of violence against women seriously, and that the 2017 Act was not just a perfunctory gesture. Domestic violence is a special kind of crime which requires swift justice for the law to be efficient and for women to avail it. Special courts would solve the problem of lengthy and slow pace of procedures in the family and civil courts, which are already overburdened. We saw this in the example of Intellectual property (IP) Tribunals, established in 2015, which have significantly increased the scope of copyright and patent law.

The idea of women judges and prosecutors in theory seems like a brilliant one. Victims of domestic violence would be more comfortable approaching women judges and a female dominated legal sphere. The rural taboo of a woman going to court and the “parda” problem would also be overcome to some extent in an all-female environment, and on whole, female judges should be considerably more empathic in such issues.

However, let us hope that these courts do not succumb to the same illnesses that other special courts usually fall victim to. Tribunals and special courts have been known to become defunct due to vacancies. Special Courts such as the Drug Courts and the Cyber Crime Courts have become non-functional due to vacancies and the government’s delay in appointing a chairman. Special Courts usually finish last on the list of the government’s priorities and consistently suffer from lack of funds, lack of effective security against intimidation and other operational failures.

If the government takes these courts seriously and devote funds to it, like it has to the mostly successful IP tribunals, they could speed up the process of violence cases and enable victims to have trust in the law. If not, issues of inefficiency and lack of security obscurity could occur, leading proposed relief for violence victims to be only words on paper.