LAHORE: Speakers at a press conference held by Women Action Forum at the press club on Tuesday dilated upon the Punjab Protection of Violence against Women Bill 2016.

The panel included human rights lawyer Hina Jilani, sociologist Fareeda Shaheed and Nabiha Meher Sheikh. The topic was introduced by Gulnar Tabassum from Shirkatgah.

Hina Jilani began saying that women had always been the ones to end up fighting for their own rights and they had achieved a lot over the decades ‘not because of the government but in spite of the government.’ Concerning the bill, she said though it was positive enough that the step to promulgate such a set of laws was being taken, the fact was that it was also disappointing in a way because so many loopholes were present in the law that it became difficult to assess the level of justice that would be served to the victim.

“First it’s important to note that the initiative was taken in Sindh and Balochistan and at that time no one said a word. But the problem came when the Punjab Assembly began to launch it. The bills in Sindh and Balochistan are far better than the one introduced here,” she said.

“Article 25 points to equal protection for all in front of the state, but unfortunately in some districts women will be much safer than in others.

“At the time a woman registers a complaint according to the law the authorities should have the equipment and tools to help her immediately, but this is not happening,” she said. The biggest point that she raised was that the law had not criminalised domestic violence unlike Sindh and Balochistan assemblies.

She demanded that those in charge of the law should review it once again before implementing it.Meanwhile, Nabiha Meher said there was mention of cyber harassment and that this should be clarified as there were no laws passed on cyber crime.

The WAF members also demanded that all paralegal systems should be completely abolished whether military, religious or non-formal, but in particular, military courts, anti-terrorism courts, Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), the Federal Shariat Court, jirgas, panchayats, musalhati committees.

The WAF demanded the rescinding of the Qisas and Diyat law which undermined justice.

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2016