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AF identifies gaps in implementation of Anti-Women Practices Act 2011, Islamabad

25-11-2014
Islamabad

AF identifies gaps in implementation of Anti-Women Practices Act 2011

Presenting an in-depth analysis of gaps in implementation of Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2011, Aurat Foundation, in collaboration with Trocaire, on Tuesday launched a study titled ‘Forced Marriages and Inheritance Deprivation. ’

Undertaken in 6 districts of Pakistan, the study was conducted between 2013 and 2014 and assesses the implementation of the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act which criminalizes and prescribes punishments for forced marriages of girls.

The law also criminalizes depriving women of their inheritance and comprises amendments and insertions to the Pakistan Penal Code of 1980 making practices such as watta satta, badl-e-sulah, and marriage with Quran illegal.  

The study, researched and written by Sara Zaman, terms Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act as weak law for lack of clarity over many terms contained in the text. It points out lack of awareness regarding the law amongst law enforcers, lawyers and general public and says that police officers have no means, resources or inclination to investigate matters involving domestic disturbances caused by forced marriages or inheritance related violence. 

Ms Rabeea Hadi, Director Advocacy, Aurat Foundation, in her opening remarks, briefed the audience about the history of ,16-Dats Activism’ and the spirit behind observing these days. She said that data on violence against women, prepared and released by Aurat Foundation since 2011, played an important role in bringing women friendly legislation.  She said that despite the hope that violence against women would decrease after the passage of laws against violence, it has rather increased  as there is no record that if any case of violence against women was registered between 2011 to 2015. 

Sharing briefs of her study, Ms Sara Zaman shared various types of forced marriages in difference areas e.g. wata sata, swara etc, and also pointed to the non-availability of information and data on the forced marriages in Pakistan.  She said that during the research study the research team contacted police officers, public prosecutors, medico-legal doctors, and women survivors in Karachi, Hyderabad, Peshawar, Mardan, Swat and Islamabad. While giving gender-disaggregated data of the respondents, she pointed out that number of women respondent were less compared to men due to less women in police and medico-legal departments. 

The study analysis covered the issues of decision making in marriages, women’s employment, their health, education, information about marriages laws etc. She said that according to the study, among the women contacted, around 61% girls didn’t reach the puberty at the time of marriage.  She also pointed out the loopholes in the Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Amendment), Act, 2011.  She also pointed to the lack of legal material, and hence lack of awareness / information about the law among legal experts, parliamentarians and other concerned institutions.  Police officers have no means, resource and inclination to investigate the matters relating forced marriages and violence against women.  Medico-legal experts have no knowledge of the law and their role in FIR registration.  

She recommended that some terms like ‘compel’, ‘deceitfully’, ‘coerces’ etc in the AWP Act are ambiguous and must be defined.  The duration of initial training for police officers must be increased from 9 months to at least a year.  Police must be provided details about the law and particularly in Urdu language, as police officers complained that the laws does not reach police department, she further recommended.  She also emphasized the need to increase the number of women in police and medico-legal departments.  She also recommended the relocation of women police station in Peshawar as it is not accessible to women.      

Speaking on this occasion, Director General, Federal Judicial Academy Dr. Faqir Hussain lamented the prevalence of taboos and traditions in respect of women rights due to firm hold of patriarchy and tribalism in the society. He added that non-compliance by State with international human rights and constitutional / legal safeguards portrays a negative image of the country.

He stressed the strict enforcement of law relating to female shares of inheritance and informed that the superior courts have equally stressed its strict implementation by overruling legal/procedural technicalities in the way. Dr. Hussain suggested obligating the Revenue Authorities and the Excise & Taxation Department for automatic transfer of inheritance shares to women. He recommended that Civil Courts should decide cases of female inheritance through the use of the ADR or by regular hearing, and deciding the matter in three months.                    

Mr Ehsan Ghani,  Inspector General Police, Islamabad, while pointing to  police’s role in implementation of law, emphasized the need of coordination among various institutions concerned for formulation and implementation of laws.  He further said that police officers shall be given extensive training and orientation on laws.  He said that establishment of women police station is un-necessary segregation and not the solution.   He recommended that instead of women police stations, the  government shall establish ‘women complaint cells’.  Dialogue among the police, public and public representatives, and legal experts would facilitate the implementation of law.

Speaking on the occasion, Senior Director Ministry of Health Dr. Shafqat Jawaid Sheikh said that the Gender Based Violence is a Global Public Health Issue but it is on rise in Pakistan like all other developing countries, even in  the industrialized world, and is root cause of many social evils, taboos, myths and misconceptions. He said the magnitude and health consequences of violence against women, especially that of domestic violence and rape, is a serious reproductive health problem.

He mentioned that there is a dearth of health experts and Technology to deal with the Gender Based Violence including documentation in Pakistan. He further emphasized that a lot much has to be done to deal violence as a legitimate public health concern, and for that purpose we need to explore opportunities and obstacles to progress in this particular field.  

Special attention has to be devoted by all the social sector departments and civil society including philanthropists, researchers academia experts, law enforcement agencies, policy-makers to reinforce public health that may assist in opposing all sort of violence in all its forms especially against women, children and even men including transgender.  He narrated the response and Capacity of Health Institutions for Evidence Collection in Gender Based Violence Cases is a critical area.

Ms Samar Minallah, women’s rights activist, in her presentation, said that it is important to address some of the lacunas in the Anti women practices act 2011. Especially when it comes to identifying or naming some of the key customs such as Swara, Watta Satta it is extremely important to be more specific according to the geographical areas.

The most vital issue at this stage is awareness raising and sensitization of the communities and law enforcement agencies about this Act. A need to reach our to various stake holders so that the implementation is ensured. A national media campaign through various mediums of communication is required.  The impact of dissemination of information can become more effective if various civil society organizations work with the government in partnership. Through some video clips from her documentaries she explained how deeply the concept of honour is attached with women in Pashtun society.

Ms Shaista Malik, Member National Assembly, and Secretary General Women Parliamentary Caucus (WPC), was the Chief Guest of the launching ceremony.   While emphasizing the WPC’s role in bringing consensus for the passage of women friendly laws, she said the caucus is an all parties’ forum and women from all parties unite together for the passage of women friendly laws.  She said the  WPC is also keen to approach the like-minded men parliamentarians for new laws or amendments in the laws.  Women parliamentary caucus is also keen to work with the civil society.

Mr Naeem Mirza, Chief Operating Officer, Aurat Foundation, said that although the women’s rights legislation and policy making has improved in the provinces after the devolution, but the situation at federal level is gloom.  He recommended that Women Parliamentary Caucus shall be given advisory role in women’s rights legislation.

He also recommended that National Plan of Action on women’s rights, which was developed after a long consultative process,  shall now also be developed at provincial level after the devolution of various ministries and departments.  He also requested that after inserting a separate chapter ‘20A’ in the Pakistan Penal Court (PPC), all the women friendly laws shall be brought in this chapter which will facilitate legal literacy on such laws.