LAHORE - The Punjab government yesterday briefed the religious scholars from all schools of thought on the Protection of Women against Violence Act 2016, in order to address their concerns and to clear out any misconceptions regarding the Act.

Adviser to CM Khawaja Ahmed Hasaan presided over a meeting of Ulema, while Senior Member SMU (Law & Order) Salman Sufi gave a comprehensive presentation on the features and misconceptions of the bill.

The meeting was attended by more than 15 scholars from all sects including Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, Saeed Ahmed Gujrati, Dr Raghib Naeemi, Allama Arif Wahidi, Hafiz Kazim Raza, Zahid Muhammad Qasmi, Muhammad Khan, Yousaf Anwar, Fazal-ur-Rehman (Chairman Ulema Board), Hafiz Zabeer, Abdul Haq, Muhammad Amjad, Pir Mehfooz and Mufti Qavi.

Three major misconceptions regarding the act were clarified by the government in detail. Regarding the misconception that the husbands will be required to wear a GPS tracked ankle bracelet whereby all their movements will be monitored, Salman Sufi clarified that it is not applicable in cases of domestic violence, rather it is only applicable in cases of grave violence like attempt to rape/attempt to murder/intimidating victim to withdraw a case/attempt to throw acid etc where the court believes that the life of the victim is at risk.

About the misconception that the husband will be asked to leave the house for 48 hours and this will cause further rift, Salman clarified that 48 hours is only the maximum limit and this time apart is only to serve as a “cool off” period.

“This period can also be of a couple of hours, depending on the recommendation of the District Women Protection Committee.”

About the misconception that husbands, brothers and other male family members will not be allowed to question female family members, Salman Sufi clarified that the act has no such provision and a father/husband questioning his daughter/wife doesn’t constitute as psychological violence.

The participants agreed that the Act was not anti-Shariah or anti-Islam. However, the participants had few suggestions to improve the bill’s strength as per Islamic rules and to eliminate the menace of violence, which will be presented to the Chief Minister Punjab.

The clerics stated that unfounded propaganda about this bill has led people to believe that clerics are anti-reform which is not true. “Islam does not condone violence and clerics are standing together to promote any measure that goes against violence against women and will give concrete suggestions to make this bill more comprehensive rather than toothless,” they said.

Salman Sufi said that government appreciates strong desire shown by clerics to fight against violence against women. He also welcomed positive suggestions by the Ulemas to incorporate reforms to further strengthen the bill.