Pakistan religious leaders slam women’s protection act

Act by Punjab state gives legal protection to women suffering from domestic, psychological, and sexual violence.

Spotlight: Boxing for girls in Karachi
The law safeguards women from domestic violence, as well as sexual and psychological abuse [Reuters/Akhtar Soomro]

A law giving women protection from violence and abuse in Pakistan has been criticised by a religious body for being incompatible with Islam.

The Women’s Protection Act, passed by Pakistan’s largest province of Punjab last week, gives legal protection to women from domestic, psychological and sexual violence.

The law also calls for the creation of a free abuse-reporting hotline and the establishment of women’s shelters.

Since its passage in the Punjab assembly, some conservative religious leaders have denounced the new law as being in conflict with the Quran, as well as Pakistan’s constitution.

Fazlur Rehman, the leader of one of Pakistan’s largest religious parties, the Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam, said the law was in conflict with both Islam and the country’s constitution.

“This law makes a man insecure,” Reuters quoted him as saying. “This law is an attempt to make Pakistan a Western colony again.”

OPINION: Pakistan’s history of rape impunity

“The whole law is wrong,”  Muhammad Khan Sherani , the head of the Council of Islamic Ideology, said at a news conference, in which he claimed the law was “un-Islamic”.

Jail sentences

The new law establishes district-level panels to investigate reports of abuse, and mandates the use of GPS bracelets to keep track of offenders.

It also sets punishments of up to a year in jail for people who violate court orders related to domestic violence, with that period rising to two years for repeat offenders.

In 2013, more than 5,800 cases of violence against women were reported in Punjab alone, the province where Wednesday’s law was passed, according to the Aurat Foundation, a women’s rights support group.

Those cases represented 74 percent of the national total that year, the latest for which data is available. 

Pakistani women defy threats to run for parliament

Source: Reuters