KARACHI: What is the point of having a bill against domestic violence where the criminal is not punished, asked Rubina Brohi, a representative of the Aurat Foundation.
“These people [the law and home department] have reservations about the bill. They do not believe that a person who is found guilty of domestic violence should be punished.”
Brohi and others claim that officials from the law and home department removed provisions from the draft of the Domestic Violence Bill 2012 which can send those found guilty to prison for seven years. They believe that for these government officers, domestic violence is an issue which should be dealt inside the four walls of a house.
On Monday, parliamentarians and social activists got together for a roundtable discussion on the bill which is due to be presented at the Sindh Assembly.
According to the deputy speaker of the Sindh Assembly, Shehla Raza, the bill was being reviewed by the law ministry. She said that she would arrange a meeting with them to check on the progress. “The female legislators will have to push the male parliamentarians to accept the bill,” she said. “We will take three to four days to discuss the bill and make amendments if we need to do so.”
Iqbal Haider from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that there was no concept of offense without sentence. “If the government removes the punishments in cases such as domestic violence, then prosecution would be futile and ineffective,” he said. “For years people have been talking about the bill. It is high time it was passed. Just pass the bill already, we can amend it later.”
Since 2002, activists and parliamentarians have been lobbying for the domestic violence bill, which deals with physical or psychological violence inflicted upon people by their family. The Aurat Foundation claims that in 2011, around 610 women were subjected to domestic violence.
The minister for women development, Tauqeer Fatima Bhutto said that it was a great thing that female MPAs from different political parties had joined hands on the issue. “It is difficult to change a man’s mind, especially one who wants to keep a woman caged inside the house,” she said. “With the help of this bill we can decrease the number of domestic violence cases.” She added that a complaint cell should be set up for women at every police station and that every province should also have a commission for women.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement MPA Bilquis Mukhtar said that a Justice of Peace should be set up at the district level, where the magistrate would deal with cases of domestic violence. “The police is already overburdened with robberies and killings, they are not bothered with issues about women,” she said. “Our focus is to put an end to the violence, not the relationship.” According to parliamentarian Shama Mithani, men who abused their women should be thrown out of the house.