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‘To protect women, get rid of Hudood OrdinanceÂ’

Karachi: Lauding the recently-passed Anti-Women Practices Bill in the National Assembly, speakers at a panel discussion suggested on Wednesday that the state must also do away with the Hudood Ordinance 1979.

The conference on gender-based violence, organised by the US Consulate General, Karachi, had prominent speakers representing different aspects of the law. They, apart from discussing inefficacy of the law in certain areas, candidly touched upon several issues that usually compromise the life of women and stoke perpetual violence against them.

The panellists said that the state must own up to such issues and take them seriously.

Humera Alwani, a PPP MPA, said that there were a lot of cases she was working on at the moment. However, when it came to the support of the men in the assembly, “we are not taken seriously by our peers and are discouraged while speaking out”.

Giving an example, she spoke of a girl named Maria Shah, a lady health worker (LHW), who died of burns at a hospital. Apparently, a man threw acid on her face because she refused to accept his marriage proposal. Though she received 34 percent burns which need not be fatal, the case got into a quagmire because of the threats the family received in pursuing the case.

Alwani said that such cases did not come to the fore because families easily accepted blood money and the case was never spoken of again.

The Anti-Women Practices Bill was the only subject that garnered a lot of positive comments from the panellists, with the focus of discussion being legislation pertaining to women.

Justice (retd) Majida Rizvi said that before blaming anything else one must look at the law, which is full of flaws, and “is compoundable at any stage, leaving no room for punishment at all”.

The laws, for instance Qasas and Diyaat (blood money) in the Hudood Ordinance, usually prepare the ground to plot violence. “Mindset, feudal system, and vested interests are some of the reasons why women are targeted mostly,” she added.

Although the Hudood Ordinance has been amended over the years, it “needs to be repealed now”, remarked Rizvi, “as it puts women in a very compromising situation”.

As most of the women are not financially dependant, ownership of any type of property is the root cause of violence against them, Anees Haroon, Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), said.

Giving a presentation on the status of women, Haroon said that violence of any sort did not affect upper or middle class women. “All those women languishing in jails are poor.”

It is not all bleak though, she added. Giving a few examples of achievement, she said that the Balochistan Assembly recently submitted a bill on domestic violence through lawmakers. At the same time, many other small but significant changes are also on the way.

“Massive amendments” have been made in the Zina Ordinance. Earlier, a husband or a brother could easily file an FIR against a wife or sister under the Hudood Ordinance. “But now they need four eyewitnesses to do that.”

On domestic violence, she said that the law needed to be clear. After that it is only a question of implementation.

Iqbal Haider, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, said that of all the countries he visited he found the UAE better in terms of laws for women. “If a woman needs to file for a divorce there, the proceedings are completed within six weeks and half of the husband’s salary is given as a financial grant. Meanwhile, here a simple Khula drags on for a long time.”

US Consul-General William Martin said that it was up to us to stand up and speak out against violence of any kind. Calling it a global scourge, he said that prevention, protection and prosecution were essential to combating domestic violence.
Source: The News

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