Despite passage of over seven months since the law on domestic violence was enacted, the provincial government could not take important steps for its implementation such as the setting up of district protection committees (DPCs) in each of the districts in the province.
While the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Domestic Violence against Women (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2021, was enacted after delay of many years amid much publicity by the government, it was expected that steps would be taken at the earliest to implement it.
The Act was passed by the KP Assembly on Jan 15, 2021, after which the KP governor assented to it on Feb 1.
One of the most important provisions of the law relates to setting up of the DPCs under section 4 of the Act.
The law provides that soon after commencement of this Act the provincial government should notify in the official gazette the DPC in each of the districts. The composition of the said committee includes the deputy commissioner of the concerned district as its chairperson, with several members, including one female MPA, executive district officer, district social welfare officer, district public prosecutor, a representative of the district police officer, any female government officer not below BPS-17 from the concerned district, two persons from the civil society of the district, district khateeb, a gynaecologist and psychologist, and chairperson of the concerned District Committee on the Status of Women (DCSW).
The chairperson of the DCSW should be the secretary of the DPC and in her absence the district social welfare officer should act as the secretary.
Interestingly, despite passage of over 10 years the DCSWs have so far not been constituted in any of the districts in the province. Initially, the provision about establishment of the DCSW was provided in the KP Establishment of a Commission on the Status of Women Act, 2009. The said Act was subsequently repealed through enacting the KP Commission on the Status of Women (KPCSW) Act, 2016.
During the previous provincial government of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in the province, the then chief minister Pervez Khattak had announced formation of the DCSW at a Women’s Day function and names of the respective chairpersons were also highlighted. However, despite his announcement the said committees were not notified.
Section 8 (e) of the KPCSW Act, 2016, provides that the provincial commission should establish and constitute with the approval of the government district committees consisting of such number of members with female majority and to be headed by a female chairperson for such a period to be prescribed by regulations under the law.
For the last many years the government has been dragging its feet on the establishment of the DCSWs.
Sources said that a few days ago certain names were forwarded for these committees, but the provincial cabinet had not given approval to it and instead directed the provincial commission to consult the ministers from the respective districts for the selection of the chairpersons and members.
Under the domestic violence law, the district protection committees (DPCs) have to perform various important functions and it shall meet at least once a month.
The law empowers the DPCs to make community at grassroots level aware of their rights under the Act; assist the complainant in obtaining any medical treatment due to domestic violence; assist the complainant in relocating to a safe place acceptable to the complainant, which may include a shelter home; keep official record in respect of the incidents of domestic violence in the area of its jurisdiction on the basis of information received; etc.
KP was the last province in the country where the domestic violence law was enacted.
Sindh was the first province where the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2013 was enacted in March 2013. In Balochistan, the assembly had passed The Balochistan Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2014, in Feb 2014. Similarly, in Punjab the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act, 2016, was enacted in Feb 2016.
Civil society members believe that the present law is a much diluted version of its earlier drafts and it is having several flaws.
Unlike the laws in other three provinces, there is no definition of an “aggrieved person” given in the KP law and it carries definition of a “victim”.
“In the KP law, the definition of a complainant is very narrow as the complainant only means a woman against whom domestic violence has been committed,” said Saima Munir, a programme manager of Aurat Foundation. She added that this definition should be broader and include any vulnerable person as complainant.
She said that while the law also included a definition of a child, even a child was not included in the definition of a complainant.
The laws in Sindh and Balochistan include definition of an “aggrieved person” which mean any woman, child, or any vulnerable person who is or has been in a domestic relationship with the accused and who alleges to have been subjected to any act of domestic violence by the accused.
The Balochistan’s law also includes a “man” as aggrieved person.
Similarly, these laws define a “vulnerable person” as a person who is vulnerable due to old age, mental illness or physical disability or other special reason.
The law of Balochistan also includes a domestic servant as a vulnerable person. The law in Punjab only includes a woman as an aggrieved person.
The KP law only mentions definition of a complainant whereas there was no mention of “vulnerable person” or an “aggrieved person.”
The civil society members said that they had been pinning high hopes on this law and the government should notify the DPCs and DCSWs at the earliest. Similarly, the government should also expedite the process for notifying the rules under the Act.
Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2021