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MPAs’ input: Law Dept sent draft bill on violence against women

By Aroosa Shaukat

LAHORE: A review committee has sent to the Law Department for vetting an amended draft of the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Bill, The Express Tribune has learnt.

The committee will review the revised draft and present it in the Punjab Assembly once it’s in session after Eid, several committee members toldThe Tribune.

In an earlier session, the House had unanimously decided to not table the bill after objections were raised over its contents. Instead the committee was formed to propose amendments.

Requirement for accused to wear bracelets with GPS trackers

The proposal to require people accused of violence against women to wear bracelets with global positioning system (GPS) trackers was among those met with severe criticism by members.

The draft had proposed that a court could pass a protection order and require people accused of violence against women to wear bracelets with GPS-trackers (to track their movement), among other measures like directing the accused to stay away from the complainant.

Lawmakers had opposed the proposal and said that it failed to take into account ground realities and the cultural tradition. They had stated that rather than preventing abuse, the proposal could endanger victims’ lives.

In its recommendations sent to the Law Department, the committee has sought that the requirement to wear such bracelets be limited only to instances of heinous abuse. Azma Bokhari, a PML-N lawmaker, said it would be up to the courts to determine acts of heinous abuse.

She said the action should be ordered sparingly. “Male relatives who subject women to abuse mostly live with them under the same roof. They may consider it a stigma on their honour to wear the bracelet and might pose greater threat of violence to the victims,” she said.

Definition of ‘woman’ and ‘abuse’

Other recommendations of the committee concern use of the terms ‘woman’ and ‘abuse’ in the bill and cooperation between district-level women protection centres proposed in the bill and institutions like Darul Aman.

Faiza Malik of the PPP said concerns had been raised on the use of the term ‘woman’ in the bill on grounds that it could leave young girls out of its jurisdiction. “We did not want to pass the bill in haste.

That would have resulted in a law ineffective in preventing all instances of abuse against women regardless of their age,” she said. Malik said the committee had proposed replacement of the term
‘woman’ in the bill with ‘female’.

Alongside, she said the committee had also explained the term ‘abuse’ [used in the definition of ‘voilence’] to include instances of economic and psychological hardship caused to the victims.

Other suggestions

For the protection centres proposed in the bill draft, the committee recommended that their operations be merged with institutions like Dar-ul-Aman.

Raheela Khadim, chairperson of the PA standing committee on gender mainstreaming, said that the committee had also proposed awareness-raising campaigns to encourage women to report instances of abuse. She said revisions had been proposed in penalties for people found guilty in cases of violence against women.

Express Tribune