FOR nearly a decade, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Domestic Violence against Women (Prevention and Protection) Bill failed to be passed by the provincial assembly. Even as all the other provinces passed their respective domestic violence bills, KP’s much-needed bill was delayed due to staunch opposition — mainly from religious quarters. For instance, in 2016, the bill had been sent for review to the Council of Islamic Ideology, who rejected it on the basis of it being against religious law, or so they claimed in a press conference. Women’s rights activists and female MPAs, in turn, questioned the rationale behind sending the bill to the CII to review in the first place, when this was not done with other bills, and sought clarity on which points were objectionable. Then, after the bill was again introduced to the provincial assembly in 2019, the MMA voiced reservations, delaying its passage once again. Now, according to a recent report, the revised bill is ‘likely’ to be passed by lawmakers in the assembly’s next sitting, which is a welcome move and shows that mindsets may be changing, even if not at the pace needed. The proposed bill’s stated objective is to prevent domestic violence against women, protecting them from sexual, psychological and economic abuse, and could provide many women in the province with some degree of security against violence and exploitation, particularly within the home.
In 2013, the Sindh Assembly unanimously passed the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill to protect women, children, and other vulnerable groups from physical and psychological harm. In 2014, the Balochistan Assembly passed the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill, similar to the bill passed in Sindh in the previous year. Then, in 2016, Punjab, which is said to have the highest number of cases of violence against women, passed the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Bill 2015 amidst great jubilation. It outlined the following protection mechanisms: a district protection committee, helpline, women protection officers, shelter homes, and monetary support for victims. While these bills faced their share of criticism about their perceived shortcomings, their enactment into law is a critical step, although implementation must follow for the legislation to be effective. It is vital that KP follows in the footsteps of the other provinces, and even if we do not know all the details of the bill at this point, it is imperative that it not be a toothless one.
Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2021