Pakistan: Domestic Violence Legislation Faces Obstacles
Thursday, October 7, 2010 11:25 AM

The status of Pakistan’s Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill has been at a standstill for a year. The bill’s progress has been delayed because the Senate did not pass the bill within the required time frame, despite the National Assembly approving the bill in August 2009.


The bill would create protection committees that would provide victims of domestic violence with legal protection and guaranteed medical care. Under the bill, domestic violence offenders would face greater penalties, including imprisonment and fines for the damage they impose on their victims. The bill also requires that domestic violence legislation be periodically assessed by the National Commission on the Status of Women.


Domestic violence legislation is strongly needed in Pakistan, where the Asian Human Rights Commission estimates that 80% of women in rural areas fear abuse, and 50% of women in urban areas report having experienced domestic attacks. According to the Aurat Foundation, there has been a 13% increase in violence against women from 2008 to 2009. Women who refuse forced marriages are frequently subject to violence. Current laws are inadequate because they make it difficult for victims of domestic violence to prove their cases against their perpetrators.


Some of the barriers the bill faces are religious opposition and women’s reluctance to report domestic violence. The bill has received opposition from religious parties that claim it could increase divorce rates, and result in police infringing on the sanctity of the home. Women are also unwilling to come forward in cases of domestic violence for fear of retribution due to Pakistan’s social and cultural norms. According to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the selection of the protection committee is essential in making sure victims receive justice, since police also commonly perpetuate gender violence.


Compiled from: Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza, Pakistan: The troubled history of domestic violence legislation in the country, AHRC, (5 October 2010);