The most indispensable tool for development of a society is prevailing humanitarian rights with a vital assurance that rights are maintained without gender bias and discrimination. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) Between 70 percent and 90 percent of the 83 million women in Pakistan have been attacked or suffered other forms of domestic abuse by husbands, future husbands or other family members. Nearly 290 women were killed and 750 permanently injured or disfigured as a result of acid attacks in 2002 alone.
However, filing a false complaint—which the complainant knows or has reason to believe to be false — in a court will be punishable with simple imprisonment of up to six months or with fine of up to Rs50,000, or with both.
This sounds quite familiar to the notorious Hudood ordinance, which was tactfully used against women rather than for them. To analyse how effective the Hudood ordinance was in helping women or otherwise , the HRCP report states:
In 1979, there were only 70 women in prisons all over Pakistan. By 1988, this figure was an astounding 6,000 (six thousand). The number of prosecutions under the Zina Ordinance not only multiplied, they became the majority of the cases against women being dealt with.Indicating a misuse of the law, the former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Mohammad Afzal Zullah, said 95% of all Hudood cases in the superior courts had been decided in favour of women. (The Muslim, Islamabad, March 9, 1993). ( Read Detailed Report on why the Hudood ordinance should be repealed)
Some questions on how the authorities plan to implement the Domestic Violence Bill :
- First and foremost getting women to actually file a report. In most cases women are too scared to report and have no means to do so. Keeping that in mind significant measures need to be taken in order to get genuine pleas registered
- The protection committee will consist of “2two police officers and two women councillors”. Provided the immense lack of trust people have in the police department, how will transparency be insured?. The Amnesty International report states: “When women are seriously injured by their husbands or families, police still discourage them from registering complaints and advise them to seek reconciliation with their husbands or families. In karokari ( Honor killing) cases, when husbands appear in police stations declaring that they have killed a girl or woman of their family, police often fail to take action, reflecting their unwillingness to enforce the law over custom”
- Also while farce laws such as the Hudood ordinance,are still partly functional, what is the suggested fate of the domestic violence bill.The hudood ordinance is a staunch reminder of the conditions of women rights in Pakistan.
- Elaboration on who will be resposible to judge the authenticity. Again the Hudood ordinance is responsible for many rape victims ending up in prison.
Struggle For Women Rights:
The struggle for women rights start as early as Jinnah’s initial goals for the Muslim league. The participation of women in the party and pushing boundaries of women’s emancipation were his prior goals. Even during his early years of struggle he seemed genuinely interested and supportive of women’s rights.
During a speech at the Islamia College for Women on 25 March 1940, he affirmed:
“I have always maintained that no nation can ever be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with the men. No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men. There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both, that of the women”
His sister , Fatima Jinnah, was considered the beacon of hope for the Muslim women.During 1947 ,transfer of power, Fatima had already formed Women’s Relief Committee, which later proved to be the nucleus for the All Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA-still functional).
Crimes Against Women And The Law:
According to the non-governmental Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), 286 women were reported to have been killed for reasons of honour in 1998 in the Punjab alone. The Special Task Force for Sindh of the HRCP received reports of 196 cases of karo–kari killings in Sindh in 1998, involving 255 deaths. The real number of such killings is vastly greater than those reported. A detailed report by Amnesty international lists most common reasons for Honor killings and Gender Bias in law. The Amnesty report states:
Men who have killed their wives or daughters for bringing shame on them could also in the past find relief under the provision of “grave and sudden provocation”. Section 300(1) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) read: “Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender, whilst deprived of the power of self-control by grave and sudden provocation, causes the death of the person who gave the provocation…” The punishment for manslaughter is imprisonment, for murder it is death.
In its interpretation by the courts, the law provided men who have killed their wives or daughters for allegedly bringing shame on them with mitigating circumstances not available to women. Courts opined that if the provocation – to a man’s honour – is grave and sudden as when someone tells him that his wife has an ‘illicit’ relationship, he loses all power of self-control and is not fully responsible for his actions.
This provision was omitted when the Qisas and Diyat law was introduced in 1990 but judicial practice still allows such mitigating circumstances (see below).
(1) State Parties shall accord to women equality with men before the law.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Article 15
The 1979 Zina law has also contributed to restricting women’s rights .The gender discrimination inherent in it sent an affirmative signal to those intent on treating women as second class human beings with fewer rights than men. It has also provided a handy tool with which to detain women who take any initiative with respect to their choice of a spouse, as fathers often bring zina (adultery) charges against such women.The Hudood ordinance was repealed in 2006 and amended to shape the Women Protection’s Bill. However the Bill is widely snubbed by religous parties and is considered controversial,Unislamic and unconstitutional.
A vivid example of the abuse of law by the authorities can be the case of Zafran Bibi. in 2002, Zafran Bibi was sentenced to be stoned to death by a Sessions Court in Kohat , as she went to the police to register a case of rape after discovering she was pregnant. Instead the police registered a case of zina (adultery). Zafran Bibi was lucky, an appeal was filed and she was acquitted by the FSC. But for weeks she was kept in a death cell shackled and isolated from people.
The conditions of women rights in Pakistan and the law pertaining these violations needs to be scrutinized. Eventually crucial steps need to be taken to insure implementation of this bill. Without making significant legal changes,this bill could easily be deemed ineffective. However, to make the required amendments possible is a tough struggle .
In a devastating incident last year five women including Ms. Fatima, wife of Umeed Ali Umrani, Jannat Bibi, wife of Qaisar Khan, Fauzia, daughter of Ata Mohammad Umrani, and two other girls, aged between 16 to 18 years, were buried alive in a remote village, the Baba Kot, 80 kilometers away from Usta Mohammad city of Jafferabad district. They were shot and badly wounded and then buried in a ditch while they were still breathing .Their crime was wanting to have their rights on ‘choosing a husband’. The incident was later justified by Sardar Israrullah Zehri as being a ‘Tribal Cutsom’ and hence justified.A lot needs to be learned from tragedy . The outcry ties hope to break free from the customs that have deprived our women for decades. We need to create a space in time where brutality is not masked in the name of honor.