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Senate okays bills on evils against women

13 December, 2011

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ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Monday unanimously passed the Women Protection Bill and Anti-Acid Throwing Bill, which envisage heavy penalties for offenders.

Senator Nilofar Bakhtiar, who had presented the bills, thanked the House for passing them without objection. The bills criminalise forced marriages and abuses like throwing acid, physical violence and sexual torture against women, and stipulate 14 years jail term with a fine of Rs1 million for offenders. The offences covered by these bills will be non-boilable and non-compoundable. Addressing the House, Nilofar Bakhtiar termed it a historic day.

The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention (Amendment) Bill is an amendment in Pakistan Penal Code 1860. It increases the punishment for offenders up to life imprisonment and makes it mandatory for the offender to pay a fine of Rs1 million to the victim. The amendment in Section 336-B states, "Whoever causes hurt by corrosive substance shall be punished with imprisonment for life or imprisonment of either description which shall not be less than fourteen years and a minimum fine of one million rupees."

The new insertion in Section 336-A states, "Whosoever with intention or knowingly causes or attempts to cause hurt by means of a corrosive substance or any substance which is deleterious to human body when it is swallowed, inhaled, come in contact or received into human body or otherwise shall be said to cause hurt by corrosive substance."

In the month of November, the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2011, authored by Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid MNA Dr Donya Aziz, was passed by the Lower House after a couple of amendments. It outlined punishments for social practices like Wanni, Swara or Budla-i-Sulh, wherein women are traded to settle personal, family or tribal disputes. The act, hailed by commentators as a show of collective resolve by political parties to fight social taboos against women, deals with issues such as depriving women of their inheritance and forcing them into marriages to settle disputes.

Speaking on the occasion, Leader of the House Nayyar Hussain Bukhari said that it is a historic day as a private member's (Nilofar Bakhtiar) bill was made part of national law. He said it was an important bill, but stressed for creation of awareness among the masses about this law and called for efforts to stop violence against women.

The statement of objects and reasons of the bill say that several practices and customs were in vogue in the country which were not only against human dignity but also violate human rights. Such customary norms, which are contrary to Islamic injunctions, should be done away forthwith and the persons continuing such practices be dealt with severely by providing penal and financial liabilities. The bill also proposed prohibition of depriving woman of inheritance, prohibition of forced marriage and marriage with the holy Quran.

Earlier, during a heated debate over changes in the constitution to bring changes in the 18th Amendment and bringing back the curriculum and some part of health to federal government, the senators termed it a conspiracy against the spirit of devolution process. Senator Raza Rabbani said there was trust deficit among the provinces and federal government. Any attempt to derail the devolution process would be very disastrous, he warned. If some one has any reservations about curriculum, the issue could be resolved through CCI, Inter-provincial committee and other forum, he added.


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