ISLAMABAD – The Senate on Monday passed a bill that makes violence against women and children an offence carrying jail terms and fines.
The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill was introduced by Senator Nilofar Bakhtiar and passed unanimously by the upper house of the Parliament.
Agencies add: The law was already passed unanimously by the National Assembly in August 2009. It will come into effect after President Asif Ali Zardari signs it into legislation.
Those found guilty of beating women or children will face a minimum six months behind bars and a fine of at least 100,000 rupees ($1,100).
Besides children and women, the bill also provides protection to the adopted, employed and domestic associates in a household.
The law classifies domestic violence as acts of physical, sexual or mental assault, force, criminal intimidation, harassment, hurt, confinement and deprivation of economic or financial resources.
Previously, if a man beat his wife or children, police could not arrest him and it was considered a domestic affair.
Human rights groups say women suffer severe discrimination, domestic violence and so-called “honour” killings — when a victim is murdered for allegedly bringing dishonour upon her family.
The statement of objects and reasons of the bill says, the issue of domestic violence has been a source of public concern for a number of years. Being in the private domain, the gravity of violence in the domestic sphere is compounded.
In cognizance of the stress and unbearable suffering of the aggrieved person, it is necessary to criminalise the act.
Through this bill, domestic violence is brought into the public domain and responds to National Policy for development and empowerment of women and convention for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women of adopting zero tolerance for violence against women and “introducing positive legislation on domestic violence.”
The Domestic Violence bill seeks to prevent violence against women and children with a network of protection committee and protection officers and prompt criminal trials for suspected abusers.
The bill requires the court to set first date of hearing within seven days of receiving a complaint. The petition should be disposed of within a period of 90 days and any adjournment given during the hearing of the petition be granted for reasons to be recorded in writing by the court and to adjudicate the case within 30 days. The law prescribes incremental terms of imprisonment and fines for each breach of a protection order.
Earlier, Senator Nilofar Bakhtiar of PML-Q, who introduced the bill, insisted that it (bill) should be passed at once and not referred to concerned standing committee.
She pointed out that the bill was passed by the National Assembly due to hard work of women parliamentarians and representatives of non-governmental organizations but got stuck in the Senate and eventually lapsed.
Members from both treasury and opposition benches including Leader of the House Syed Nayyer Hussain Bukhari, Minister for Interior A. Rehman Malik, Maulana Khalid Soomro of JUI, Tahir Hussain Mushadi of MQM, Haji Adeel Ahmed of ANP, PML-N’s Raja Zafar-ul-Haq and Zafar Ali Shah, PML-Q’s Chaudhry Shujaat and Gulshan Saeed and Abdul Rahim Mendokhel of Pakthunkhwa Milli Party fully backed Nilofer Bakhtiar.