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At a time when five-year old Rohan Aslam and three-year-old Reva Aslam

At a time when five-year old Rohan Aslam and three-year-old Reva Aslam should be going to school, they are instead watching TV at the home of their grandparents, locked inside a room with a maid to watch over them. Like thousands of other children across Pakistan, Rohan and Reva are the real sufferers of a marriage gone wrong.

Their mother, Aneela Parveen, is a victim of domestic violence, for which, under the law, she has currently no recourse. A bill on domestic violence which could have guaranteed her protection but it continues to be delayed with the result that women suffer endlessly.

While the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890, says that “a divorced mother is entitled to custody of her children, until seven years for males and puberty for females”, 35-year-old Aneela Parveen cannot take custody because in the eyes of the law, she has no case.

After being viciously beaten up by her husband, she has made the rounds of different courts narrating her ordeal over and over again just to prove her case. The police refuse to lodge an FIR citing legal loopholes and have, to date, been unable to give her any protection or help.

Aneela is one of the several victims of domestic violence who are made to suffer every day as the police refuse to cooperate since there is no law to protect them. The amended Protection of Women (Criminals Laws Amendment) Act, 2006 only provides ‘relief’ and protection to women against misuse and abuse of laws relating to Zina and Qazf (Enforcement of Hudood Ordinance 1979), and the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939. However, the issue of domestic violence under this law remains unaddressed. Numerous cases are reported every day but the police officials refuse to intervene terming it as a ‘private affair’ of the complainant.

An effort to address the issue was, however, made by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Women Development on April 26, 2007 when a bill called ‘Domestic Violence Against Women and Children (Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2007’ was submitted to the cabinet for approval. However, despite the passage of seven months, there was no progress and the then government’s tenure ended in November 2007.

Today, Aneela Parveen stays with her parents in Gulistan-e-Jauhar away from her children. Her husband, Farhan Aslam, an AVP at a reputed private bank, is understood to have physically tortured her for refusing to give him consent to remarry. What added insult to injury was that he was intent on marrying Aneela’s best friend.

After several failed attempts to reconcile with her husband and save their marriage despite the beatings, Aneela has now decided to part with her husband and has recently filed a lawsuit to gain custody of her children.

Aneela, who comes from a well-educated Sindhi family, says she is particularly disappointed with the justice system that does not guarantee protection to the victims of domestic violence.

The police, in her case too, refused to intervene because it is supposedly a ‘domestic affair’. However, Justice (retd) Majida Rizvi, who is also an advocate for human rights, argues that “once the matter is reported to the police, it no longer ‘private’ and it is their duty to register an FIR against the concerned family member.

But the opposite has been the case with Aneela. According to her family, on the night of January 15, 2008 after being subjected to severe physical abuse by Farhan Aslam at their residence in Defence Phase 6, Aneela attempted to register an FIR against her husband. But the police refused and instead sent her to the Women’s Police Station located near the PIDC roundabout.

When the battered woman went to register her case there at around 2.00 a.m. along with her brother, the female police constable, who was the only one present at that time, also refused to register the case. She advised her to go back to Defence Police Station as “it was not their jurisdiction.”

When Aneela returned to the Defence Police Station, the SHO advised her to report the matter to the Medico-legal Officer (MLO) of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) first and only on the basis of that medical report would they register her case. “My sister was bleeding and her injuries and torn clothes did not require ‘medical’ proof, but she was made to run from one place to another for two days just to register her complaint,” lamented Aneela’s elder brother Dr Muhammad Ali.

Aneela’s tragedy, however, did not end at the MLO office where there was no female MLO to examine her. “They asked us to return later, but after my brother persisted that at least a report be prepared based on the external injuries, he agreed to do so,” adds Aneela. She appeared more shocked at the attitude of the police and ML officials than that of her abusive husband.

Dr Ali added that the police and ML officials refused to prepare a report in her case “as there was no reported fracture nor were Aneela’s wounds deep enough to expose the bone” and the law does not permit them to prepare a report in case of domestic violence unless the torture is severe. However, after much ado, a report was prepared.

But Dr Rohina Hasan, a female MLO at Civil Hospital denied the presence of any such law. “There is no such law and the officials have to prepare a report regardless of the reason of violence,” she says. The legal procedure, explains Dr Hasan, is to register a police report first. “However, there are times when the female victim does not have a male to accompany her to the police station and is hesitant to go alone. In such a case, we call the police officials of the concerned area to the MLO office so he can report her case at the hospital itself based on which we prepare a medico legal report,” she explains.

Aneela said that she later sought help of a few human rights organisations for legal aid but was turned down too following which her family decided to register a case with the lower court.

Her four-month-old son Rohain Aslam was also with the Farhan after the incident. However, Aneela took custody of the minor on January 22, 2008 and is hopeful of the same for her other two children. Aneela and thousands of women like her suffer in silence as the government delays the bill despite the fact that it has been signed and sealed by the parliament.

Source: The News

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