The lives of millions of women in Pakistan are circumscribed by traditions, which enforce extreme seclusion and submission to men, many of whom impose their control over women with violence.
For the most part, women bear with stoicism, traditional male control over every aspect of their bodies, speech and behaviour. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, it is estimated that a woman is raped every two hours, a gang rape occurs every eight hours, and about 1,000 women die annually as a result of honor killings.
The Senate, this week, passed two private member bills, The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill 2010 and The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Bill 2008, which prohibits forced marriage, gives women the right to get their share in inheritance and gives severe punishment to criminals physically harming women with corrosive substances.
The Acid Control and Acid Crime Bill makes acid throwers causing disfigurement, liable to 14 years imprisonment with a minimum fine of Rs 1 million. As per Section 498A inserted into the Code, whoever by deceitful or illegal means deprives any woman inheriting any movable or immovable property at the time of opening of succession shall be punished for a term which may extend to 10 years, but not less than five years or with a fine of Rs 1 million or both. The new law would also prohibit forced marriage, punishment being imprisonment of seven years but not less than three years and fine of Rs 0.5 million.
Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act 2011 remained stuck for three years, first in various National Assembly committees and then the house itself so the fact that it has finally been passed is definitely a milestone. But the question is will these bills really be implemented practically? In a society where feudal lords, influential ministers & senators advocate killings, where tradition is not allowed to be questioned, will women in Pakistan have access to a fair judiciary, which will ensure their protection and rights to live as an individual?
Violence against women, particularly in the domestic sphere, goes unreported. Approximately 70 per cent to 90 per cent of Pakistani women in rural areas are subjected to domestic violence. Typical violent acts include, murder in the name of ‘ honour’, rape, spousal abuse (including marital rape), acid attacks, and being burned by family members (often labelled an accident by family members).
The tragedy of Pakistan is that it is the influentially empowered people & policy makers that blatantly commit breach, therefore most people are scared to testify or report such cases. The passage of this bill is a mere paper document unless an appropriate plan is devised to implement the same. The rural population needs to be empowered & educated of their rights. No clear strategy for implementing these laws has been provided. These reforms will be of little practical benefit until federal and provincial authorities create mechanisms for compensating and rehabilitating victims of gender-based violence. Authorities must establish immediate benchmarks for assessing the implementation of these new laws.