By Usama Shahid
A much needed talk, violence against women and laws being made to prevent it, was held by the Sheikh Ahmad Hassan School of Law. The talk was spearheaded by Mr. Sulman Sufi, the head of the Chief Minister’s Special Monitoring Unit or SMU Law and Order. This unit was established in 2014 and the main aim of this unit is to propose, implement and monitor laws, regulations and people present in the sector. The discussion was mainly focused on the new reforms that the unit was intending to bring about in legislations regarding violence against women and what progress has been made on that front.
The talk focused on the 3 main things being done by the SMU on the implementation, propositions and empowerment of women. The first step that they described is the passing of the bill that provides more power and makes it easier for women suffering from acts of violence and aggression to easily acquire justice. The second step involved establishment of women rehab centres for victims of violence. These centres aim to provide a range of facilities such as medical facilities to an in-house court room. The third and final step implemented by the SMU is the Women on Wheels initiative, which includes the teaching of driving skills of different vehicles to women. This is thought to be essential as it will give women more freedom and independence.
The talk started off with the explanation of why a specific team had to be put together to combat this social issue. Mr. Sulman described how the lack of control in the case of violence against women needed urgent attention, which, he believed, could be given through a team which was solely dedicated to the task.
Mr. Sulman carried on by telling the avid audience that his team was in the process of getting a bill approved by the Punjab Assembly.
Then Mr. Sulman explained the bill that they are trying to get approved for the Punjab assembly and the perils they are facing in their task. The bill, in simple layman terms, grants women more rights in Punjab, making it easier for them to get a divorce, file charges and allow for other basic rights that are unfortunately not provided to them. The bill was approved by a committee on the 25th of May 2015, and was approved by the CM, after a few changes, on the 24th of August 2015. The bill has faced several opposition with many members of the provincial assembly claiming that it would increase the number of divorces and cases in Punjab. Whether the bill actually passes is yet to be seen as it will be presented in the general assembly in the next meeting.
The new concept that the SMU has presented regarding the rehab centres for women who are victims of violence is a commendable one. The Violence Against Women Centres(VAWCs) are a good initiative in the sense that the whole process of crime recording to medical examinations and court rulings can be done under one roof. This way justice can be implemented in a shorter period of time. The centres would be the first of their kind and the first one is to be inaugurated in Multan.
Mr. Sulman further explained the Women on Wheels initiative, stating that the basic aim was to allow more freedom and independence to women, which should be the case. The SMU is collaborating with the traffic police and will be teaching women on how to drive basic vehicles like cars and motorbikes with the initiative concentrating more on motorbikes with a 1000 motorbikes being given out to promote this.
The talk came to an end with a question answer session that was as simple as they come with many people recommending educational reforms as well to ‘nip the evil in the bud’. Violence against women is a serious issue in Pakistan but steps like these paint a picture of a brighter future ahead.