Pakistan: Pro-Women Bill Passes Despite Clerical Opposition
Thu, February 25, 2016
Illustrative picture. (Photo: © Reuters)
The Punjab Assembly passed the “Protection of Women against violence Bill 2015” which criminalizes a raft of different offenses against women. The bill passed the state legislature on Wednesday, February 24.
Pakistan is governed by a federal system in which provincial legislatures retain a variety of powers.
According to GeoTV, the bill officially makes the following illegal:
- domestic violence
- emotional, psychological and economic abuse
- verbal abuse
- abetment of an offense
A toll-free number will be set up to hear complaints from women, along with a district protection service to investigate complaints.The defendant, who legally must be informed if a complaint is made, can also be made to leave his house for two days, while women who complain may not be forced out. Special Centers will also be set up for reconciliation and resolution of disputes.
Violence against women is already criminalized at a federal level.
Yet the bill was condemned as anti-Islamic by a prominent cleric. Mufti Muhammad Naeem, the Chief of Jamia Binoria International, called the bill a “tragedy” and said it was a bill to suppress men at the hands of women. He also said it was against the Quran and the Sunnah.
This new bill represents a step forward for women’s rights in Pakistan, but opposition to it from clergy shows the extent to which progress is still needed to educate about the importance of women’s rights.
Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.