Karachi: The previous Pakistan People’s Party-led government passed three laws to curb violence against women, but apparently, they failed to make a difference.
The latest data compiled by the Madadgar Helpline shows a large number of cases of women being murdered and subjected to rape, torture, trafficking and karo kari.
Experts blame the lack of awareness about the laws and the slow judicial process for the problem
“Even law enforcement agencies are sometimes found clueless about the new laws promulgated to protect women, then how do you expect the common people to know about it,” says Mahnaz Rehman, the executive director of the Aurat Foundation. She, however, concedes that there is a possibility of more cases being reported these days after the advent of fast electronic media.
“The number of cases might be the same, but more incidents are being reported now,” she said.“Because of the electronic media, the people have started coming forward over issues that were considered taboo until a few years ago.”
The three laws passed to protect women are: The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act 2010, the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010, (both passed by the National Assembly) and the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2013 (passed by the Sindh Assembly in March this year).
Experts believe that these laws have sufficient clauses to protect violence against women and punish the perpetrators, but the unawareness about these laws, coupled with the slow judicial procedures, often complicate matters.
“A law for the protection of women is almost welcome, but there are some factors that also play a role,” says Kiran Simon, a high court lawyer and an office-bearer of the War Against Rape (WAR).Simon believes that the implementation of these laws is only possible if the government takes measures to remove the hurdles in the court proceedings.
“Ideally, rape cases should be heard and closed within a limited timeframe, because if these cases run for years, it takes a toll on the affected party and also provides unfair advantage to the accused,” she says. Kiran also points out that the system of procuring DNA samples, which a crucial piece of evidence in rape cases, is also too cumbersome and needs to be simplified.
“The DNA sampling process takes a long time. The samples go to Islamabad and the report is sent after months. The government should set up DNA sampling centres in the province. This will be of tremendous help in the proceeding of rape cases,” she says.
Mehnaz says only 14 cases of workplace harassment have been registered across the country after the parliament passed the law against it.“This goes on to show that citizens, especially women, need to become aware of their rights, which are now enshrined in the Constitution,” she adds.
— Infographic by Faraz Maqbool