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Pakistan’s domestic violence bill stalled yet again

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Aisha Farooq
WVoN co-editor

Attempts to finalise Pakistan’s domestic violence bill have continuously stalled this month following disagreements by major political parties.

The bill, which started its journey through the National Assembly in 2009, was scrapped after only 90 days when the Senate received objections from Islamist groups.

Last week, joint sessions between representatives of all political parties in Parliament sought to agree on a new set of terms, but to no avail.

Right-wing Islamist group, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F), opposed the bill outright. They insisted it supported a ‘Western culture’ that conflicted with Shari’a law.

Protests from members of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), who demanded the bill be passed quickly, were also strongly condemned by JUI-F. They claimed the activists were ‘interfering’ in and disrupting matters of state and that legal action should be taken against them.

“We will not let these senseless women, who depend on American dollars, to work against the Constitution and Islamic Shari’a,” said JUI-F member, Jamshid Abbasi.

“Minting dollars in the name of women rights, representatives (women) of these NGOs are earning bad name [sic] for Islam.”

The alleged pro-American, Zionist, Indian, and whatever other anti-Muslim conspiracies these activists supposedly share was also opposed by the Muslim League.

“Monday was a sad day for women as we again failed to evolve a consensus on the domestic violence bill,” said PML-N member, Mushahidullah Khan.

As a result of the opposition, the Pakistan’s People Party (which currently has the highest number of seats in government), gave in to their demands and announced that the bill would not be passed until a full consensus had been reached.

The deadlock over the bill is in stark contrast with the most recent annual report from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

The report, released in March, suggested that 943 women had been killed in 2011 in an attempt to uphold family honour.

Concerns over whether enough is being done to protect Pakistani women seem to have been answered by this legislative delay.

A 21 year old divorcee, Mehwish, who was shot dead by her cousin for defiling the family name, was the latest honour killing to hit Pakistani headlines this week.

A few weeks previously, two women were shot by their brother-in-law after he suspected they had ‘suspicious characters’.

A month ago, postmortem results of another female victim indicated that her brother stoned her to death using bricks. The reason: another suspected relationship with a boy.

The list is endless. Considering Pakistan’s current government boasts pro-women opportunities, clearly nowhere near enough is being done to prevent these deaths.

With brothers and husbands being the biggest assaulters of women, the trivial complaints and excuses of these right-wing parties appear to be simply absurd.

Currently, no law exists that prevents a husband from harming his wife. As Karachi based sociologist Afiya Shehrbano recently wrote:

“At the moment, Pakistani women have full legal rights to practice domesticity – including the right to receive violent treatment in the privacy of their homes – without state interference.”

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