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Elimination of violence against women.

Byline: Abdul Razak Shaikh

Declaration for the elimination of violence against women was adopted in

1993 by the General Assembly of the United Nations. Later on in the December 1999 decision, the 25th November day was fixed to highlight the issue and support from the public for the elimination of violence against women. Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it. The declaration on the elimination of violence against women, issued by the UN General Assembly in 1993, defines violence against women as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

Women in Pakistan are regularly subjected to violence. Violence against women has been categorized into crimes including, abduction/kidnapping, murder, domestic violence, suicide, honor killing, rape/gang rape, sexual assault, acid throwing, and burning. Domestic violence is a very common form of violence silently endured by many women in Pakistan. It is a form of physical, sexual or psychological abuse perpetrated mainly (but not only) by men against women in a relationship or after separation. In Pakistan, since the joint family system is common, in-laws are also common perpetrators of domestic violence in relation to dowry issues or family disputes. The problem with this form of violence against women is that such cases are seldom reported, often treated as private household matters. Men consider it their right to threaten or be physically violent to their wives as corrective behavior when women are seen as being disobedient. According to estimates, 39% of married women aged 15-49 report having experienced physical and/or emotional violence from their spouse.

As defined by the World Health Organization, domestic violence encompasses physical and psychological distress including sexual coercive acts towards primary women by a current or former male intimate partner. Understanding violence against women is a complex issue. Several explanations coming from various theories have been offered to understand the phenomenon. Research reports from countries all over the world show that violence against women still occurs, though the form may vary from one society and culture to another. It is a major public health and social problem requiring considerable attention, as it entails severe physical, psychological, social and emotional consequences. The representatives of governments and civil society organizations renewed their commitments to strive for the elimination of gender-based violence. Despite claims made by the federal and provincial governments, cases of violence against women continue to persist in the society. During the last over a decade, the successive governments have been focusing on legislation related to issues of violence against women. While several laws were introduced in this regard, legal experts believe that there is still a long way to go for implementing the said laws.

In early 2005, the then government enacted the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act (Act No 1 of 2005) to check the inhuman customary practices of honour killing, swara and vani. Similarly, the inhuman practice of giving females to rival groups in marriage for settling blood feuds was also declared a penal offence punishable with up to 10 years rigorous imprisonment. Subsequently, the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006 as well as two other laws were passed in 2010 aimed at checking harassment of women in public and at the workplace. The law provides for the appointment of ombudsperson on federal and provincial levels. Another important legislation was the Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, 2011 (Acid Crime Act) which was enacted in Dec 2011. This law is aimed at checking the crime of throwing acid. Another law, Criminal law (Third Amendment) Act, 2011, was introduced in Dec 2011. This law introduced certain amendments in the PPC and CrPC. It provides for punishment for depriving women of their share of hereditary property; imposing forced marriage on a woman and arranging the marriage of a woman with Quran. In 2016, Criminal Law (Amendment) (Offences in the name or pretext of Honour) Act 2016, through which more amendments were made in PPC and CrPC to prevent honor-related offences.

Experts say that only the Women Protection Act of 2006 has shown some positive results as previously women prisoners charged for adultery and fornication outnumbered other female prisoners in other offences in the country. They believe that other pro-women laws especially the one dealing with honour-killing failed to achieve the desired results. From 2012 to 2017, the Government of Punjab introduced and implemented several significant measures to counter gender-based discrimination. Today, in order to prevent women from domestic violence and provide them medical as well as judicial and legal support, new plans and interventional maps should be made. In societies with the collaboration of health team members, religious and societal leaders and NGOs, strategy implementation should be enforced and women are protected from violence must be our slogan.
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Publication:Pakistan Observer (Islamabad, Pakistan)
Date:Jan 1, 2019
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