Domestic violence has been a matter of great concern in Pakistan. Due to the Patriarchal social system in Pakistan, women are the ones who mainly fall victim to domestic violence abuses. Since the 1970s the criminal justice system in many states began to treat domestic violence as a serious crime and not as a private family matter.
In Pakistan, a Domestic Violence Protection bill was proposed in 2009 which was passed in the National Assembly but subsequently failed to be passed by the Senate, within the prescribed period of time. The bill faced much criticism by religious and political parties who criticized the bill to be aiding in increasing divorce rates, being against the principles of Islam and an attempt to promote Western cultures. After the Eighteenth Amendment, the matter pertaining to the bill became a provincial issue.
Sindh was the first province to pass legislation with regards to Domestic Violence. The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2013 was promulgated to ensure protection to victims of Domestic Violence. The Act defines domestic violence as, “Domestic Violence includes but is not limited to, all acts of gender based and other physical or psychological abuse committed by a respondent against women, children or other vulnerable persons, with whom the respondent is or has been in a domestic relationship”. There is a long list of offences which come under domestic violence in the aforesaid Act and most of the punishments of these offences are governed by the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860. However, the punishments for some offences are set out under the Act which are emotional, psychological and verbal abuse, stalking, sexual abuse, tress pass and economic abuse. The punishments vary for each offence as set out under the Act.
Subsequently, legislations were passed by Balochistan: The Balochistan Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2014 and by Punjab: The Punjab Protection of Women against Violence act 2016. While the legislations passed by Sindh and Balochistan provides protection to victims of domestic violence including women, children, vulnerable person or people in domestic relationship, the legislation passed by Punjab only provides protection to women who are victims to domestic violence.
Nonetheless, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has still not passed any laws regarding Domestic Violence. Even though the Domestic Violence against Women (Prevention and Protection) Bill-2019 is present in the assembly but it is facing resistance from religious and political parties.
Despite the fact that Domestic Violence has been given its due recognition much later by the Provincial Governments in Pakistan these legislations will protect the rights of victims who are subject to domestic violence and will curb the domestic abuses prevailing in our society.