07/01/2015, 00.00
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Women's rights activists: Change sham law on domestic violence

by Shafique Khokhar
The "Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act 2015" was approved on 20 May by the provincial government. The law does not define domestic violence or prescribe severe penalties for offenders.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - A number of women's rights associations, in particular the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), are decrying the "Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act 2015", calling for it to be reviewed and corrected, to criminalize all form of domestic violence against women.

The law, passed by the Punjab government on May 20, aims to ensure the protection of women within the domestic boundaries.

Women in Pakistan have always been deprived of rights, because of cultural and religious traditions. Until last month, the female citizens had no norms to protect them in case of domestic violence.

The 2015 Act was presented to the provincial assembly by the Social Welfare Department of Punjab, without any involvement of civil society or input from women's rights activists. The law deals with the action to be taken once the violence has taken place, and does not consider preventive measures in any way. The document also imposes lenient sentences for offenders.

The "Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act 2015" does not provide the definition of domestic violence, which should include include clauses of domestic relationships and domestic work employment, households defining sexual abuse, abetment, mischief, hurt, intimidation, harassment, criminal force, assault, stalking, physical abuse, trespass, psychological abuse, wrongful confinement and vulnerable persons.

In 2014 women's rights associations proposed a law against domestic violence, but their request was never accepted by the Court. The request for revision of the 2015 Act was also ignored, even though the Court is required to organize a hearing within seven days of receiving a complaint.

The NCJP requires that the law - which has been called by many a "parody of protection" - is corrected and that the offenses of domestic violence are prescribed in the Pakistan Penal Code, in order to stop the culture of impunity enjoyed in Punjab by guilty men and to put the emphasis on prevention rather than cure.

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