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Sindh government urged to pass Domestic Violence Law before election

KARACHI: Parliamentarians, lawyers and activists on Tuesday urged the Government of Sindh to pass Domestic Violence Law before the upcoming elections in 2013. In a consultation organised by Shirkat Gah – Women’s Resource Centre to promote effective legislation to control the widespread incidence of domestic violence in Pakistan, participants stressed the need to pass the Domestic Violence (prevention and protection) Bill 2012 that is jointly promoted by the civil society and Sindh Assembly legislators.

The event was attended by Sindh Women Development Minister Tauqir Fatima Bhutto, Zareen Majeed MPA MQM, Population Welfare Department, Women’s Development Department, Social Welfare Department, representative of the Police and members of civil society were present on the occasion.

Fauzia Viqar, Director Advocacy and Communications explained the key features of the proposed law. She highlighted the fact that proposed law is the first significant attempt to recognise domestic abuse as a criminal (punishable) offence, to extend its provisions to all those in domestic relationships (women, children and other vulnerable persons), and to provide for emergency relief for the victims, in addition to legal recourse.

The need for special law arose because remedies available to a victim of domestic violence in civil and criminal courts are limited; there is no emergency relief available to the victim; available remedies are linked to matrimonial proceedings; and the court proceedings are always protracted, during which period the victim was invariably at the mercy of the abuser.

The Act considers physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, psychological, and economic abuse or threats of the same. Acts of negligence and abandonment are also included. It will be instrumental in providing comprehensive support to the victim through protection committees proposed for every Tehsil.

Lawyer and women’s rights activist Maliha Zia Lari explained what efforts were being made in other provinces and Islamabad Capital Territory to pass similar legislation. She talked about the advocacy strategy developed for passage of the Bill in ICT. Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Law, Mohammad Aslam Sheikh informed that Ministry of Law has prepared a draft on directions of the Chief Minster Sindh and sent it to the CM in August 2012. The draft now needs input from other departments before passage. The draft shared by him proposed penal punishments for offences already covered by the Pakistan Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedures. It was however, not clear if the government had agreed to criminalizing new offences covered under domestic violence in the civil society and MPA Bill.

Fauzia Viqar and Hameeda Kaleem of Shirkat Gah appreciated the role of Minsiter Tauqir Fatima Bhutto played in promoting The Domestic Violence (prevention and protection) Bill that has already been vetted by the Ministry of Law. Members of Sindh Assembly and civil society were concerned that progress on passage of the Bill was slow. Sindh Women Development Minister Tauqir Fatima Bhutto stressed the need for timely passage of the law to protect a large number of rural and urban, educated and uneducated women in Sindh. She also highlighted efforts made by Ministry of Women’s Development to reduce violence against women including complaint cells in Sindh. She reiterated the full support of MPAs in Sindh to the proposed act being presented in the event and prayed for its early passage.

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