Changes in laws and public mindset needed to stem domestic violence in Pakistan

Participants of a one-day workshop titled “Domestic Violence” called for a review of the laws to control violence against women including the Women Protection Act.

Council of Islamic Ideology organised the event, seeking proposals from civil society and gender issues experts on how to protect women against domestic violence.

The speakers said misinterpretation of religion, wrong cultural norms and illogical social traditions were the main cause for different forms of violence against women and there was a need to change mindset of the people.

They said there were laws on domestic violence including the WPA but they were being ignored. They domestic violence cases should be recorded in detail so that parliamentarians could understand the ratio and intensity of these cases before making any law. They said the WPA should be open for public debate and reviewed in the light of the feedback from women and those working on women issues.

Domestic violence cases and reconciliation: They said police had reservations about implementation of this act as they say that the victims withdrew cases of domestic violence while the investigations were midway.

They said withdrawal of these cases should not be easy and complaints should be scrutinised before start of investigations.

They criticised a clause of the act that allowed women opt not to meet husbands during the reconciliation period, granted by courts in domestic violence cases. They said the disputing parties could not reach a settlement unless they met.

Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Syed Afzal Haider pressed on the importance of Ijtehad (collective thinking), while dealing with women issues. “Many Quranic verses are misinterpreted. Ijtihad is the only way to make out the real meaning of religious scriptures,” he said.

He said change in people’s attitude was required more than amendments in the laws. “Implementation of these laws is not possible until people change their thinking style,” he said. He said experts could only suggest legal amendments while it was the duty of media and civil society to create awareness about them so that they were approved by the parliament. National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) Chairperson Arifa Syeda Zehra said no law could be implemented in its true sense if influential people were not held accountable.

“Public attitude could not be changed through laws. Had laws been enough to bring about a positive change, the present laws would have done so,” she said.

Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan Secretary Faqir Hussain said domestic violence was prevailing all over the world but its intensity differed from place to place.

“Unfortunately, it is largely prevalent in Muslim countries despite the honour and respect promised to women by Islam,” he said.

He said violence against women not only ran against Islam and but also against the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Religious scholar Muzafar Mohsin Naqvi said Islam preached peace and harmony, not violence. “Any form of violence affects psychology of children who ultimately get involved in violent activities at some stage,” he said. Naqvi said the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) should be the best example for Muslims.

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