Pakistan province seeks more protection for women

  • 26/02/2016
(file, Reuters)
(file, Reuters)

Lawmakers in Pakistan's largest province of Punjab have given unprecedented protection to female victims of violence, in a bid to stem rising gender-related abuse.

The new law introduced on Wednesday (local time) criminalises all forms of violence against women, whether domestic, psychological or sexual, and calls for the creation of a toll-free abuse reporting hot line and the establishment of shelters.

Muslim-majority Pakistan, home to roughly 190 million people, sees thousands of cases of violence against women every year, from rape and acid attacks to sexual assault, kidnappings and so-called "honour killings".

Domestic abuse, economic discrimination and acid attacks make Pakistan the world's third most dangerous country in the world for women, a 2011 Thomson Reuters Foundation expert poll showed.

In 2013, more than 5800 cases of violence against women were reported in Punjab alone, according to the Aurat Foundation, a women's rights advocacy group.

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

The leader of one of Pakistan's largest orthodox Sunni Muslim seminaries denounced the new law as being in conflict with the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

"Attempting to change religious and national values in the name of protecting women is a tragedy that is of great concern," Muhammad Naeem, head of the Jamia Binoria seminary in the southern city of Karachi, said in a statement.

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 violators of court orders related to domestic violence, with that period rising to two years for repeat offenders.