ISLAMABAD: The Women’s Action Forum (WAF) on Sunday expressed concerns over the passage of a bill by the National Assembly to give legal cover to Jirgas and Panchayats.
In a statement, WAF reminded the legislators that Jirgas and Panchayats had been responsible for passing illegal judgments and inflicting inhuman punishments to women and poor people.
“Punishments against women have included women of the accused family being gang raped and little girls and women being offered as compensation for murder and other crimes to the aggrieved party. There have been several incidents when people were made to walk on burning coal to prove their innocence,” said the statement signed by activists Nasreen Azhar, Nageen Hyatt and Yasmin Zaidi.
It said Jirgas and Panchayats were traditionally composed of influential people and clerics with deep patriarchal biases and ignorant of the law and human rights norms. Jirgas are said to be preferred because there is a myth that they deliver prompt ‘justice’.
Family disputes, dissolution of marriages and maintenance come under the purview of the family laws and family courts. There is absolutely no justification for including them in the Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) Bill 2016. Family laws need to be strengthened, not emasculated.
“We are aware that ADRs have proved useful in some countries but ADRs in the patriarchal and socially unjust and unequal conditions that prevail in Pakistan are not acceptable. It is shocking that such an important bill has been passed by only 23 members in a house of 342,” the statement added.