LAHORE: The AGHS legal aid firm organised a consultation on the Punjab Protection of Women against the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act 2016 to make these protections available for all women as envisaged by the law.

The act and its pilot project were initiated through the Violence Against Women Centre (VAWC) in Multan.

Lawyers, prosecutors, family judges, parliamentarians, and government officers joined in the consultancy, to discuss ways to implement the law by activating the relief mechanisms with minimal resources required. AGHS Director Nida Aly said that thousands of women suffered in silence due to the lack of awareness of the protections under the law. The law comes into force upon a notification by the government, a process which has been phased through different dates for various areas, which essentially means that this law has only been implemented in Multan since 2017 and no other area has been activated through notification.

Amendments were proposed to make this law applicable automatically instead of through the issuance of a notification.

Several deficiencies were pointed out in the definitions, and minor omissions and additions were overlooked as an error or use of broader interpretation. However it was decided that the consultation should focus on facilitating mechanisms for providing relief to aggrieved persons through implementation of the law. Government representatives promised they would begin to implement the law starting from Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, and Bahawalpur – using and restructuring existing shelter homes (Darul Amans) to designate them as VAWCs instead of establishing new facilities as the most efficient and cost effective option with limited resources.

It was suggested that it would be most expedient to have two or three family courts notified through the High Court to exclusively work on complaints received under this Act.

The role of the district women protection officer (WPO) was termed as vital for an effective application of this law. The consultants agreed that the board under the Punjab Women Protection Authority should be immediately constituted as it has the powers to control, monitor and oversee the complete system. The notification of the board would be the first step to implementation of the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act 2016.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2019

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