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Activists hail passing of the historic bill stressing upon the need of efficient enforcement.─ AFP/File
Activists hail passing of the historic bill stressing upon the need of efficient enforcement.─ AFP/File

LAHORE: Activists Thursday hailed the passing of a historic bill protecting women's rights in Punjab, with the legislation establishing a helpline and shelters while calling for some defendants to wear GPS trackers.

Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Bill redefines “violence” to include “any offence committed against a woman including abetment of an offence, domestic violence, emotional, psychological and verbal abuse, economic abuse, stalking or a cyber crime”.

Related: PA approves bill for protection of women against violence

Zohra Yusuf, head of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), welcomed the bill and expressed the hope that efficient enforcement will help protect women and ensure that offenders do not escape justice.

“The bill appears to be a rather comprehensive attempt to institute a system for prevention of violence against women and for protection and rehabilitation of the women victims,” Yusuf said in a statement issued Thursday.

Yusuf said the bill includes a broad definition of violence and steps to make complaint submissions easier.

“These are all much-needed measures that deserve praise but it is important to remember that cosmetic and purely procedural changes have not had an impact in the past,” she said.

Abdul Qahar Rashid, spokesman for Punjab's provincial assembly, told AFP that the bill, which was passed unanimously, must be signed by the provincial governor before it becomes law.

Under the new legislation, the government will institute a universal toll free help line for the women, and will establish district protection centers and residential shelters under a phased programme.

Family courts must fix hearings within seven days of a complaint, the bill says, with all complaints to be decided within 90 days.

Also Read: Violence against women ‘most rampant’ in Punjab

The court can also order a GPS tracker to be installed to monitor a defendant's movements, provided an act of grave violence has been committed or is deemed likely to be committed.

Women in Pakistan have fought for their rights for decades, in a country where so-called honour killings and acid attacks remain commonplace.

'A shaky step forward'

While lauding the Punjab government for passing the 'Protection of Women Against Violence Act 2015' as a good first step in addressing 'the oft ignored elephant in the room', Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) also shed some light on the some problems with bill 'that need weeding'.

A blog published on DRF website says that the Act defines “violence” as: “…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 or a cybercrime”

The bill mentions several forms of violence, and includes stalking and other cybercrimes but fails to provide clear indications and explanations of what those terms mean and entail; in comparison, the newly added terms “economic abuse” and “psychological violence” are further elaborated upon in greater length.

But what’s a cybercrime?

It is regrettable that what constitutes as cybercrime is not clearly explained in more detail, especially in the context of cybercrime-related cases that are constantly on the rise.

Cyberstalking, harassment through social media, sharing of inappropriate (and usually stolen) material, unauthorised power and access of computer systems, and the distribution of personal information belonging to other people all constitute cybercrimes; it is important that the legislation mentions this salient point, so that laypeople, women in particular, can easily understand what manner of acts can be reported, and what the penalties are.

Complicating the matter is the fact that many cybercrime offenders - including in particular online bullying and cyberstalking - will create numerous fake social media profiles. In doing so, quickly ascertaining who is actually behind the profile, and is the guilty party sought after, before they are aware of police being on their scene, becomes more difficult.

The GPS tracker problem

The bill also utilises abstracts without clear definitions. Provision 7(d) of the bill, for instance, suggests that the defendant: “wear ankle or wrist bracelet GPS tracker for any act of grave violence or likely grave violence which may endanger the life, dignity or reputation of the aggrieved person;"

There is also the question of what the repercussions maybe for a wife that reports her husband and leads to him being tracked with a wrist GPS. There is the potential danger that a man may react even more violently to the social ridicule and ostracization that may come with it.

Moreover, there are no provisions to indicate who will be monitoring on the GPS trackers. We also do not know whether Pakistan even has the mechanism or capacity to handle such a medium of monitoring someone. Who will prevent this provision from being abused and how? Will the police, which is already lacking in resources, be able to react in time to a man violating the GPS order and staying away from his victim? There are many questions that need to be posed about these trackers, and the answers are nowhere in sight.

The blog further says that the the weaknesses in this Act could pose major problems in the future, adding that in it’s current state, it is a fabulous work in progress that requires improvements.

Most Popular

Comments (51) Closed

asif Feb 25, 2016 06:40pm

A good legislation. Credit goes to present Govt. No harm if open heartedly praised by other brotherly provinces & followed.

AHA Feb 25, 2016 06:43pm

From social media, I observe that many Pakistanis are against this bill. Shocking, and extremely sad.

Prem Feb 25, 2016 06:51pm

@AHA why may I ask

Lost cause Feb 25, 2016 07:02pm

GPS tracking devices should be for the accused, lady defendants should not be kept with GPS devices.

T.M. Reddy Feb 25, 2016 07:03pm

A lesson to change the attitude of men towards women.

Adeel Feb 25, 2016 07:05pm

Why would anyone be against this bill , its for the protection of our sister's , mother's and wife's . anyone against this bill are actually ignorant

Kamran Feb 25, 2016 07:11pm

Good going but more important than bills is implementation. I hope implementation is there!

Mediocre Pakistani Feb 25, 2016 07:11pm

"in a country where so-called honour killings and acid attacks remain commonplace."

We should aim to prosecute violence of all manner. Does the constitution not extend its protection to all citizens equally regardless of the sex?

Tsunami Feb 25, 2016 07:11pm

These are the real signs Naya Pakistan. Well done Punjab Government.

Waseem Sarwar Feb 25, 2016 07:20pm

Finally. Kuddos to Punjab government.

Mustafa R. Feb 25, 2016 07:32pm

The root of the evil is the wadera culture, we have never been short of laws, just implementation. It is just another manifestation of corruption in our society. I bet a lot of people who made this law would be behind bars if the law was implemented.

Mediocre Pakistani Feb 25, 2016 07:33pm

Does that mean its ok the commit violence against men in Punjab?

nabil Feb 25, 2016 07:35pm

Never too late to change mind set most selfish men carry against women. Provincial government has passed this legislation, federal government should not waist time to pass women's right bill a National law.

Aleem Feb 25, 2016 07:36pm

Should be legislated Pakistan wide and implemented with the full force of the law!

Bob Feb 25, 2016 07:36pm

I congratulate Pakistan for bringing this bill. Next step should be to bring a change in the thinking of men as regards women. Implementation of law is equally important. Even in India lot needs to be done.

Qkhan Feb 25, 2016 07:40pm

Who will put the bell on cat? So many laws, to me this another addition.

Zak Feb 25, 2016 07:46pm

About time. Lets hope its fully implemented and men are actually punished if they commit violence against women or abuse them in any way.

Jalaluddin S. Hussain Feb 25, 2016 07:48pm

Great! Congratulations!

But such a law should be implemented all over Pakistan.

The provincial government of Punjab deserve praise. A good start.

ayub Feb 25, 2016 07:57pm

Let's see how these measures would be implemented. In Pakistan law exists in the books on almost every subject. But the problem is the lack of awareness among the people and the proper implementation of the law. Moreover, the legal procedure is lengthy, cumbersome and expensive. Majority of legal professionals are incompetent and exploiters.

Ajmal Feb 25, 2016 08:03pm

Pakistan- Punjab welcome to the club of civilized countries of the World. Pakistan moving forward.

Omveer Feb 25, 2016 08:14pm

Well done. We owe it to our women folk. They deserve our respect and dignity.

vin Feb 25, 2016 08:14pm

Pakistan is ahead of India and probably more secular. Jinnah was right that Muslims can grow faster and better by having a separate state.

Zak Feb 25, 2016 08:34pm

Great move. Pakistan is leading the way for all in the region.

common voice Feb 25, 2016 09:03pm

Why not this is for spouse, i.e. vice-versa? why against men, what if woman do such offense, women are still escaped even they kill men.

Akash Feb 25, 2016 09:07pm

Kudos!!. Woman makes a family. Men relatively lacks compassion, love and empathy. World would be wild without women. No nation could prosper without woman empowerment

AG Feb 25, 2016 09:07pm

Nothing will happen by this bill, no matter how many bills you pass but atrocities will keep happening against the women in Pakistan. It is not that we don't need these kind of bills, question is that who will implement those laws with current midset of Pakistani men

Ghaznavi Feb 25, 2016 09:08pm

It remains to be seen if this becomes one more law in the books or it will really change the behavior of masses.

Mo Feb 25, 2016 09:11pm

I support this bill to prevent all gueninue cases of abuse against women. However at the same time, it is important that the bill is not exploited or misused to settle personal grievances or any other malicious motives against innocent people. Submission of tangible evidence is vital to differenciate between fraud and reality.

Osama Feb 25, 2016 09:24pm

@Lost cause The defendant is the person being accused of the crime not the accuser. The people who are accused will be wearing the GPS device not the women.

Khan Feb 25, 2016 09:26pm

A Bill that single out a particular sex, is a sexist bill, no matter how novel and benevolent the intentions.

Why not a bill that protects both sexes from " ..... abetment of an offence, domestic violence, emotional, psychological and verbal abuse, economic abuse, stalking or a cyber crime"

zeezoo Feb 25, 2016 09:39pm

punjab govt is progressing leaps and bounds with every passing day in every aspect of its responsibilities

Baaligh Feb 25, 2016 10:16pm

@Waseem Sarwar "Finally. Kuddos to Punjab government." Well, it remains to be seen whether the law is implemented in letter and spirit and is also applied against the all powerful feudal and influential.

Ahmed Feb 25, 2016 10:52pm

About time Pakistan protects women rights. In a country where laws on books are implemented selectively, let's hope this law will not be left in books only. What's shameful is that our religion has so much respect for women but no one seem to pay attention. So,what's lacking is education. As they say "it's education stupid ".

The Outsider Feb 25, 2016 10:53pm

New bills and laws are all nice and pretty but it is useless if the law is not applied, used or that there are loopholes. And history has shown that PK has problems with that.

Farooq Sheikh Feb 25, 2016 10:53pm

@Lost cause agreed

Maria Feb 25, 2016 11:12pm

It is a step in the right direction but the definition of domestic violence needs to be broadened. Physical, verbal and psychological abuse can happen against men and children also and thus law should protect anyone who is subjected to abuse.

Kalim Farooki Feb 25, 2016 11:42pm

A first srep to legally the rights of the abused. Laws means nothing until it is practised with equity

Jawad Feb 25, 2016 11:46pm

Other provinces must follow punjab. This is right step in right direction

atif Feb 26, 2016 12:22am

i bet if this bill is implemented in letter and spirit, more women would be prosecuted compared to men coz more cases of abuse involve a woman against woman nexus in domestic realms

Prof. Abdul Malik Feb 26, 2016 12:41am

this is a much needed step a forward step a progressive step. now enforcement will be the key along with good governance all around.

Sachin Feb 26, 2016 01:22am

There is lots of violence in India too against underprivilegd non-earning women. Hope that laws, enforcement and society values improve towards women. After all every daughter is the heart of a father . the daughter will be the woman in future. It is all fathers responsibility to make a better place for their daughters for tomorrow. Another sad thing is often women are victim by other women.

akram Feb 26, 2016 01:34am

A step in the right direction, this is in fact a sign of progress for both women and the country as a whole. The next step is to ensure u Its enforcement when challenged by abusers and their religious friends who fear the freedom of women.

Hassan Feb 26, 2016 01:59am

It is quite unbelievable that some religious contractors are opposing this bill........

Keti Zilgish Feb 26, 2016 02:42am

This legislation is too fallible & leaves too much to worry about. Hence it is nothing but a cheap way for politicians to buy time by hoodwinking the voters.

Spooky Feb 26, 2016 02:48am

The Feminist won. The looser is the family Head. Women will abuse this power to the extent that it will infect on our tradition family life. The bread earner will become ultimate salve under this legislation. Of course women need protection but not to empower them above their nature. The bill is unbalanced. What about the burden of family income. would the women will provide equal financial contribution to the immediate family?

solani Feb 26, 2016 04:40am

Protecting female, is to protecting a whole nation.

Azmeen Feb 26, 2016 05:22am

Excellent bill but strangely some women are talking against it?

Nasiroski Feb 26, 2016 06:52am

An excellent first step, but it needs to go to the next level where it gets implemented and get enforced and actually provide the service that it is meant for. Unfortunately the social and moral awareness and education that this law demands is almost non existent in that society even in cities and in middle and upper classes let alone unprivileged and poor masses.

flipdlop Feb 26, 2016 08:14am

Well I'm glad that this is finally happening, and I hope government have suitable alternatives as well like punishment for wrongful conviction or grievances etc just to ensure that people do not use this bill for fun. Hopefully, amendments are made in the future to ensure justice and equality. Good job nawaz...

Nasrullah Khan -USA Feb 26, 2016 08:43am

Would this bill cover the honor killings or would that be covered by some other bill, if passed?

Azmeen Feb 26, 2016 09:12am

A resolve to protect our mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends.