THE word ‘Women’ creates several images in one’s mind. Every image of women, let it be mother, sister, wife or daughter is perceived through the common lens of respect and dignity. Undoubtedly women are the real architects of the society as no nation can rise to the height of glory unless its women are side by side with its men. The history of Pakistan is full of such amazing women who have proved themselves equally talented, courageous and intelligent as any man ever witnessed. It is unfortunate to see that despite the fact that women have made their name in Politics, Medicine, Engineering and all the other walks of life, they are still associated with weakness. Women empowerment and gender equality are mere words in our country.
Pakistan has been declared as the third most dangerous country for women after Afghanistan and Congo. In Pakistan the basic rights of women are violated. People with traditional mindsets do not allow women to leave the four walls in the guise of Haya leading to their disappearance from social sectors. Women face physical, psychological and economical abuse at different levels all over Pakistan.
Apart from that,lack of awareness among the ordinary citizen regarding women’s rights and absence of adequate laws has made the situation worse. Over the decades, successive laws have sought to improve the position of women but poor implementation has hindered the goal. It was the need of hour to introduce a well-planned law along with goodimplementation. Gladly Government of Punjab has passed a historic law for the protection of women against violence. The bill which is known as ‘Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Bill’ has set Pakistan to become the first country in the region to launch the most women friendly initiative in history.
Punjab protection of women against violence bill reflects the vision of CM Punjab Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif to empower the women of today asour future relies on them. The Women Protection bill will liberate women from the disgust and abuse they have been suffering all their lives. It will safeguard the rights of female segment of the society resulting in justice, equality and peace. The Women Protection bill will be implemented in Punjab first as Punjab has been reported with highest registered cases of violence against women. According to the women rights NGO Aurat Foundation, in the year of 2014, 7,010 cases of violence against women were registered in Punjab alone.
Punjab protection of women against violence bill is destined to change fate of women in Punjab. The bill is perfectly in accordance with the constitution of Islamic republic of Pakistan guaranteeing gender equality and protection of women. It redefines violence as any offence committed against a woman, including domestic, sexual, psychological, economic abuse and cybercrime. Bill has 31 clauses providing a system dealing with complaints, assistance, penalties and justice.
Punjab women protection bill will allow women from all over province to report any incident of violence without any fear and hesitation. In the past, women were embarrassed of reporting their cases in women protection centers as lodging of complaint opened another Pandora box for them in the form of delays, lack of cooperation by the staff and embarrassing questions.
Punjab Protection of women against violence bill will fulfill all the standards of carrying the process with cooperation, dignity and discipline. The mistakes of past would not be repeated in any case. If the Court is satisfied that any violence has been committed or is likely to be committed, the Court may pass a protection order in favor of the aggrieved person and direct the defendant to have no communication with the aggrieved person and maintain safe distance from her. In case of grave violence like endangering life or reputation the court may order the dependent to wear ankle or wrist bracelet GPS tracker or leave the house.
Under the law, Violence against Women Centers will be established all over Punjab. It will be the first line of defense for victims providing immediate relief and protection to them. VAWC will remain open 24 hours a day as protection does not take leave. A specifically designed real time, key stoke monitoring software will connect all the justice delivery departments, evidence will be collected within 24 hours of the assault and thus, prosecution will be strengthened. The GOP has taken adequate measures to make VAWC effective by appointing cooperative and sensible female staff on duty who truly wishes to help the aggrieved person maintaining privacy of their cases.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Lahore.