PAKISTAN: A Monumental Triumph

Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Daily Times
Southern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Conflict Prevention
Human Rights
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

The fact that within a period of one month Pakistan has passed three pro-women bills can be considered a tremendous accomplishment. The Senate has unanimously approved and passed two more bills that were pending in the Assembly since 2008. The ambience in the Senate was overwhelming and awe-inspiring as besides civil society members, survivors of acid attacks had also been invited and emotional speeches were made in support of these victims. Lengthy discussions regarding these crimes and women's rights ensued, at the end of which the bills were unanimously passed without any objections.

The Women Protection Bill and the Anti-Acid Throwing Bill criminalise forced marriages and cruelties against women like acid throwing, physical and sexual torture. As per the bills, the punishment for offenders has been increased to life imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1 million has been made mandatory with the above-mentioned offences being non-bailable and non-compoundable. This legislation must be hailed as historic and is a blow against the oppressive traditions that women in Pakistan suffer from. The age-old patriarchal mindsets that characterise traditional society have culminated in relentless exploitive and discriminatory acts of violence against women for far too long. Growing incidents of brutality like acid throwing have become a frequent weapon against women and it was about time that women were granted legal protection against such horrid crimes. Issues such as forced marriages often lead to young people making independent decisions on their own, leading to them being killed by the male members of their families in the name of honour. The case of the Pakistani family sentenced to prison in Belgium for shooting their daughter just because she was living with a Belgian man and refused an arranged marriage is a matter of shame for the whole country, disgraced by the acts of such intolerant and chauvinistic men. Therefore, legislation like the two bills mentioned above — monumental as they are — are only the first step towards societal progress and their subsequent implementation is equally important in ensuring total respite from these repressive customs.

Nevertheless, this legislative victory should be celebrated and welcomed. Also, the fact that this noble cause received unanimous attention and courtesy from all senators present is laudable and reflects the recognition of the social dilemmas that our society is afflicted with and a collective desire to address those issues. It is hoped that our representatives in parliament exhibit such notable consideration in the future as well and that their determination to create a system on the basis of equality, justice and human rights continues against all odds.