ISLAMABAD (TIP): Lawmakers in Pakistan’s largest province on Wednesday gave unprecedented protection to female victims of violence, in a bid to stem a rising tide of gender-related abuse in a country ranked as the world’s third most dangerous place for women.
The new law criminalises all forms of violence against women, whether domestic, psychological or sexual, and calls for the creation of a toll-free abuse reporting hot line and the establishment of shelters. Home to roughly 190 million people, Pakistan sees thousands of cases of violence against women every year, from rape and acid attacks to sexual assault, kidnappings and “honour killings”.
“The instances of violence against women have been on the increase, primarily because the existing legal system does not effectively address the menace and violence by some is perpetrated with impunity,” said the text of the legislation passed by the Punjab assembly. In 2013, more than 5,800 cases of violence against women were reported in Punjab alone, the province where Wednesday’s law was passed, according to the Aurat Foundation, a women’s rights advocacy group.
Those cases represented 74% of the national total that year, the latest for which data is available. The leader of one of Pakistan’s largest orthodox Sunni Muslim seminaries denounced the new law as being in conflict with the Muslim holy book, the Quran. “Attempting to change religious and national values in the name of protecting women is a tragedy that is of great concern,” Muhammad Naeem, head of the Jamia Binoria seminary in the southern city of Karachi, said in a statement. The new law establishes district-level panels to investigate reports of abuse, and mandates the use of GPS bracelets to keep track of offenders.