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LAHORE: Chief Minister’s Special Monitoring Unit and the Law Department were able to satisfy women MPAs and members of the civil society about the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Bill 2015 here on Wednesday.

The bill was to be passed by the Punjab Assembly on June 11 but was deferred due to objections raised by women MPAs.

The meeting which removed the objections was presided over by Law Minister Rana Sanaullah and prominent lawyers including Asma Jahangir and Pakistan Bar Council vice-chairman Azam Nazir Tarar. SMU Senior Member Law and Order Salman Sufi and law department officials gave a briefing to all participants and were able to effectively address the queries and reservations of the civil society and the lawmakers, sources said.

According to them, changes suggested by Asma Jahangir, Mr Tarar and legislatures were taken into account and amendments were made to the draft legislation accordingly, but the original spirit of the bill was retained.

The participants were informed that the bill aimed at merely providing immediate relief to women victims. It did not contain any element of punishment for the perpetrators of crime against women because such things were already covered in the CrPC and PPC. It was victim-friendly and parallel proceedings bill.

According to sources, an aggrieved person will now be defined in the bill as a female who has been subjected to violence. ‘Violence’ itself has been redefined to mean any offence committed against the human body of the aggrieved person including abetment of an offence, domestic violence, sexual violence, psychological abuse, economic abuse, stalking and cyber crime.

The psychological and economic abuse will also be now explained in the bill.

Psychological abuse will be determined by a panel of psychologists appointed by the district women protection committee and will take into account in anorexia, suicide attempts and clinically proven depression resulting from defendant’s oppressive behavior.

On the other hand, the ‘economic abuse’ means the denial of food, clothing, shelter and other basic necessities to the victim.

Mr Sufi explained that the basic purpose of the electronic ankle bracelets was to act rather than react so that an incident could be stopped from happening in the first place instead of acting after the incident had taken place.

All the participants reportedly agreed that the electronic ankle bracelets were imperative to make sure that the accused stayed away from the victim especially when he or she was out on bail for heinous crimes and there was significant danger present to the life, livelihood and dignity of the victim.

In addition, as per residence order, the defendant would have to provide alternate accommodation to the victim or pay rent for an alternative accommodation if he/she is transferring the house to someone else.

It was also agreed in the meeting that it would be at the discretion of the victim to either go to the shelter home or ask the defendant to move out of the house.

If the district women protection officer determines prima facie that a wrong has been committed and the life and livelihood of the victim is in danger, the victim will be moved to shelter home or defendant will have to move out of the house until the court gives an order.

Furthermore, if the victim goes to the shelter home, the defendant will have to bear her and the children’s (if any) expenditures.

Mr Azam expressed satisfaction with the proposed Violence Against Women Centres and the mechanism to ensure speedy prosecution and evidence collection.

Ms Asma said it was a great effort made by the government and that she would provide guidance to make the proposed legislation a more effective law whenever approached by the government.

The law minister said bill would be tabled in the Punjab Assembly for voting in the first week of July.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2015

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