Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Stakeholders address rise in incidents of domestic violence

ISLAMABAD: National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) on Sunday held a stakeholders’ consultation to discuss continuous increase in reported incidents of domestic violence and possible collaborations among key partners for advocacy, policy and legal interventions.

The participants pointed out that only in 2021, 14,189 cases of gender-based violence were registered in Pakistan. The meeting was headed by the chairperson of NCHR Rabiya Javeri Agha and was attended by representatives of civil society organisations, United Nations and international organisations.

Participants expressed concern over increased number of domestic violence cases and stressed for organised effort to address the issue at all levels. In a briefing around the issue, participants were told that domestic violence, a proportion of the total violence against women was defined as any act committed within the family by a family member, or behaviour that resulted in physical harm or psychological injury to an intimate partner or another member of the family.

Studies showed that 40 per cent of women experienced physical or emotional violence in their lifetime. Divorced, widowed, and separated women suffered more violence than married women. Domestic violence was not confined to matrimonial relationships.

The last Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) for Pakistan revealed that 39pc of women aged between 15 and 49, who had never been married, reported being subjected to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) at some time in their life.

Regarding legal framework, participants were told that three laws including Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act 2016, Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act Sindh, 2013 and Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act Balochistan, 2014, were in place whereas Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2020 was pending.

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Ms Agha said that the rules for provincial laws were still pending. “In Sindh, it took six years for the first conviction under Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act Sindh, 2013,” she said, adding that basic challenges in controlling domestic violence was the societal acceptance of it, difficulties in registering first information reports (FIRs), women’s lack of legal knowledge and fear of the judicial system, and lack of financial independence of survivors.

“Besides that, lack of domestic violence shelters and a low number of female police officers also played a role in discoursing women from taking a decision. She further said that on the occasion of the recently held Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan before UN Human Rights Council on Jan 30, many countries such as Sweden, Australia, Brazil and Japan recommended Pakistan to pass the Domestic Violence Bill.

Talking about the initiatives taken by the commission, she said that NCHR had already developed a policy brief on domestic violence and had launched a helpline (1413) for the protection of women’s marriage rights in Punjab.

“In addition to that, the NCHR has a mechanism to address complaints and continuously follow up on rules and implementation of provincial domestic violence acts in Sindh and Balochistan,” she said that the commission was bringing out a campaign based on domestic and Islamic jurisprudence.

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