Pakistan: Mixed Reaction for Domestic Violence Bill
Friday, September 11, 2009 1:35 PM

On 4 August 2009, the Pakistani National Assembly voted to pass the country’s first bill against domestic abuse. While the initial reaction to the bill was largely positive, recent reactions have been mixed, as some activists voice concern that the bill does not go far enough to protect Pakistani women or to punish the perpetrators of domestic violence.

The bill defines abuse as “(a)ll intentional acts of gender-based or other physical or psychological abuse committed by an accused against women, children or other vulnerable persons, with whom the accused person is or has been in a domestic relationship” (Global Geopolitical News); it includes “economic abuse, harassment, stalking, sexual abuse, verbal abuse and any other repressive behaviour” (Daily Times) as forms of violence against women. The Senate still must approve the bill for it to officially become law.

Through the bill, protection committees would be created, with which victims of domestic violence could file a complaint of abuse. The committee would then send the case to the area magistrate within three days; the court could then pass a protection order in favor of the aggrieved party, as well as order the abuser to provide monetary relief to the claimant. The protection order would remain in effect until the aggrieved party petitioned for its discharge. A breach of the protection order by the abuser would result in a jail sentence of between six months to one year, as well as a fine of up to 100,000 Pakistani rupees, the equivalent of approximately $1,210 USD. Second offenses would receive a fine of 200,000 rupees ($2,421 USD) and/or a prison sentence of between one and two years.

While some politicians and women’s rights activists applaud the bill for drawing domestic abuse into the public sphere, others argue that it does not go far enough to protect Pakistani women and girls. Women’s rights activist Maliha Khan believes that the bill does not criminalize domestic violence and merely issues “a restraint order” (Global Geopolitical News) against abusers. Khan argues that “To effectively deal with this social evil, it is vital that an act of domestic violence be punished with imprisonment and/or fine at the first instance, not after a ‘breach’ of protection orders.” (Global Geopolitical News)


Compiled from: Irfan Ghauri, The Daily Times, “NA Passes Law Against Domestic Violence.” (5 August 2009); Zofeen Ebrahim, Global Geopolitical News, “Women-Pakistan: Domestic Violence Bill Draws Mixed Reactions.” (7 September 2009.)