LAHORE: The Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Bill 2015 passed by the Punjab Assembly in February is yet to be notified for implementation.

However, a complaint lodged in March under sections of assault or use of criminal force on a woman and stripping her off (354) and punishment for criminal intimidation (506) of the Pakistan Penal Code was falsely reported as having been registered under the bill.

In that case, Green Town-resident Basra had filed a complaint against her husband Tayyab for torturing her and refusing financial assistance. Later, she deposed before a court that since she had reconciled with her husband, the first information report (FIR) may be quashed. The court dismissed the case as withdrawn.

The long-awaited Bill contains remedies for victims of violence, criminalisation of all forms of violence against women and provides for special centres that remove the usual hurdles that complicate a woman’s quest for justice.

Under the Bill, violence has been redefined to mean any offence committed against the human body of the aggrieved person, including abettment of an offence, domestic violence, sexual violence, psychological and emotional abuse, economic abuse, stalking and cyber crime.

A toll-free universal access number will be introduced to receive complaints while district protection committee established to investigate complaints filed by women. Violence Against Women Centres (VAWCs) will be set up at district level across the province. The centres are supposed to be set up to solve the problem of FIR registration and streamline the case-flow process by bringing all the needed facilities under one roof -- first aid, police reporting, FIR lodging, prosecution, medical examination, forensics and post-trauma rehabilitation.

A district women protection officer (DWPO) has been given power to raid any place to rescue the complainant with her consent. The officer can also file a habeas corpus case on the basis of any credible information of wrongful confinement of an aggrieved person. Several penalties (imprisonment and/or fine) have been laid out in the Bill for obstructing the work of a protection officer, filing a false complaint and breach of court orders or tampering with the Global Positioning System record.

Aurat Foundation Resident Director Mumtaz Mughal told Dawn implementation of the Bill at once is a costly exercise. The government planned to implement it in phases which needed huge infrastructure and budget for establishing VAWCs in districts.

She said the government had allocated Rs40 billion for the first VAWC in Multan which was under construction and will be completed by December.

She was of the view that the Bill could not be implemented without completion of the first VAWC. She also said currently the government did not have sufficient budget for establishing such centres in every district and for now Darul Aman were being upgraded for the purpose.

A senior police officer on condition of anonymity told Dawn that the course of investigation in women-related cases would be expedited after implementation of the law. Quoting rape cases, she said women did not know about preservation of evidences and they usually bathed themselves before a medical examination which resulted in damaging key evidence. She doubted better results could be achieved after implementation of the bill without changing the mindset of society.

Chief Minister’s Special Monitoring Unit Chairman Salman Sufi told Dawn the Bill could not be implemented without completion of the first VAWC. He said they told the media and law enforcement agencies after passing the Bill that it could not be implemented till December.

He said they would provide rescue, first aid, police reporting, FIR lodging, prosecution, medical examination, forensics and post-trauma rehabilitation under one roof.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2016

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