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As strange as it may seem, different definitions and contents of the domestic abuse bill apparently found in contravention of Islamic injunctions and the Constitution have skipped the attention of the lawmakers in parliament until various sections of society raised objections on the bill.
Details emerged after Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan urged on Monday National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser to refer the bill criminalising domestic abuse to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) for its opinion, as objections were raised on it after it was passed from the NA and returned with amendments from the Senate.
Surprisingly, the amendments in the bill – Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2021 – from the Senate are related to inserting or omitting some words, commas and a clause but they do not specifically state if anything is in contravention of Islamic injunctions or the Constitution.
However, the letter of the PM’s adviser reveals that several segments of society have shown concerns on various definitions and other contents of the bill. “Most importantly it is being highlighted that the Bill contravenes the Islamic injections [sic] and way of life as enshrined in responsibility of the state in Article 31 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan (Chap 2-Principles of Policy),” it read.
Officials in parliament said that religious circles have raised objections on the bill after noticing that it made it a punishable offence if someone warns the spouse or if the parents give a warning to their children. Threats to cause physical pain to spouse or other members of shared household and threats of divorce or second marriage fall under domestic violence in the bill.
The bill states that the act of domestic violence shall be punishable with imprisonment of a maximum period of three years and not less than six months and a fine of Rs100,000 and minimum of Rs20,000 shall be paid as compensation to the aggrieved person. Aiding and abetting carries the same punishment.
Apprising the NA speaker that the bill was passed by the lower house and transmitted to the upper house wherefrom it has been referred back to the NA as passed with amendments, Awan said: “Now the Bill is the property of National Assembly for further proceedings on it.”
Awan added that the Constitutional scheme of Pakistan as in part IX titled “Islamic Provisions” for existing and forthcoming laws, guidelines are provided under Article 227 (1).
Article 227(1) states: “All existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the Injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah, in this part referred to as the Injunctions of Islam, and no law shall be enacted which is repugnant to such Injunctions.”
Sharing the explanation, Awan said that in the application of the clause to the personal law of any Muslim sect, the expression “Quran and Sunnah” shall mean the Quran and Sunnah as interpreted by the sect.
His letter states that Article 230(1)(b) empowers the Islamic Council to advise a house, a provincial assembly, president or a governor on any question referred to it as to whether proposed law is or is not repugnant to the injections of Islam.
Under Article 230(1)(a), he added, it can also make recommendations to parliament as to the ways and means of enabling and encouraging the Muslims of Pakistan to order their lives individually and collectively in accordance with the principles and concepts of Islam as enunciated in the Holy Quran and Sunnah.
“In view of the provisions of the Constitution of Pakistan and the concerns of various segments of society,” Awan stated, “it is advisable that the Bill as passed by National Assembly and amended by the Senate of Pakistan may be referred to the Islamic Council in accordance with aforementioned provisions of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”
The bill aims to establish an effective system of protection, relief and rehabilitation of women, children, elderly and other vulnerable persons against domestic violence. It also aims to provide relief to victims of domestic violence who are in domestic relationship and are related to each other by consanguinity, marriage and kinship etc.
The bill also empowers courts to grant interim orders, protection, custody and residence orders as well as award monetary relief to victims of violence at the expense of respondent. It also envisages the creation of a Protection Committee to assist the aggrieved person and process his/her application in court.
The bill states that domestic violence shall mean all acts of physical, emotional, psychological, sexual and economic abuse committed by a respondent against women, children, elderly, vulnerable persons or any other person with whom the respondent is or has been in a domestic relationship that causes fear, physical or psychological harm to the aggrieved person.