The passing of the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Bill (or Women Protection law as it is being commonly called) by the Punjab Assembly has drawn much public attention in recent days, both positive and negative. While most Pakistanis believe that it is high time that existing laws were amended in order to better protect our female counterparts from abuse along with unwanted male attention, a large number in the country (especially among the religious sections) say that passing such a bill in the province is not only against our religion and culture but will give women undue power and allow them to press false allegations against men. All this had made the bill one of the most hotly debated political topics in the country. However, the real question is how much genuine effect will the law have on the everyday lives of Pakistani women? Will it save them from harassment in the workplace and abuse at home or will it just pass into the long list of laws that nobody bothers with?

On one hand there is no doubt that this law will give women greater legal protection against the various types of violence that they face in our society including cybercrime. It will also give victimised women a better chance to deal with their trauma since under this act the Punjab government is obligated to set up shelter homes and protection centres with medical, physiological as well as legal help for the victims. Another positive outcome is that it will deal more severely on the issue of domestic violence, a practice that is prevalent in Pakistani society (especially in the rural areas of Punjab), by giving harsher punishments to offenders as well as making it easier to report such abuse through the use of a special hotline. This amendment will also make it illegal to evict a woman unlawfully from her home, a widespread practice in case of family disputes. All in all, this law will beyond a doubt increase constitutional safeguards for women as well as giving aid to those who are abused.

Still the question remains how effective is the law and to what extent will it be implemented. The Constitution of Pakistan already assures the safety of women and there are substantial punishments under the existing laws for abusing women. However, more often than not these laws are simply ignored or worse misused to lay the blame on the victim. There is no guarantee that this new act will not meet the same fate after the present attention over it dies down. Secondly, many Pakistani and international feminists have said that while the bill does emphasis on giving protection, its main focus is on reporting abuse and dealing with it rather than criminalising  violence against females. Because of this, they say, the law fails to act as a meaningful deterrent for any injustice that women suffer. Legal experts have also picked holes in the law saying that its language is too undefined, sweeping and confusing to be used in a courtroom. This makes it difficult to charge someone under this ordinance. 

In conclusion while it is undeniable that this law will aid women, several things about it need to be corrected if it is to truly provide a change. First of all the language of the law needs to be changed so that it is more clear and concise. This will make it easier for the victims to press charges and for the legal process to move more smoothly. Moreover, its nature needs to be amended so that it focuses more on preventing and punishing abuse rather than reporting it. Secondly, it needs to be made certain that the law is implemented all across the province in word and deed so that it does not turn into another charade. The government should also start programmes, particularly in rural areas, to teach people about the problems that women face in our society so that the law gains social acceptance (a necessary requirement if lasting change is to be achieved). If these steps are followed then I believe that the status of women will get exceedingly better in Pakistan.