By Muhammad Tayyeb, Iftikhar Khan
Farzana is fed up with her eight years long unhappy marriage. She has approached a local family court in Peshawar seeking divorce from her husband. Being mother of two, she took the extreme step after being subjected to severe physical and mental torture by her husband and in-laws for years.
“My husband used to beat me over petty matters. He used to find excuses to taunt me. Every time, I served breakfast to him in the morning, he broke the utensils and disrespected me. He usually called me a doomed person as according to him, I was the main reason for all his problems and disparities in life,” she tells TNN outside of the court after submitting application for dissolution of her marriage.
Farzana, a resident of Abdara locality in Peshawar, says her agonies were further multiplied by husband’s father.
“My husband’s attitude was good until the birth of our first daughter. His behavior changed when our first daughter was born. However, the real culprit who ruined my life is my father-in-law,” she recalls.
“My father-in-law had already ousted his own wife from home and he also victimized me through my husband,” she reveals.
Farzana adds that her father-in-law couldn’t digest to see her sitting with her husband in privacy. “He used to say, it burns him literally to see a couple sitting in privacy,” she says while quoting her father in law.
“My father in law harsh attitude influenced my husband to stay away from me and gradually, the gulf between us became wider,” she remembers.
Farzana is not the only woman who has been subjected to domestic violence by her husband and in-laws. There are hundreds of cases which take place on daily basis across the country.
Unfortunately, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the only province where there are no effective laws to check violence against women. According to a female legislator of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, Miraj Humayun, efforts are underway to enact laws for the protection of women rights but she regrets that no laws have been passed so far.
“Regrettably, we didn’t introduce any law for the protection of women’s rights in the provincial assembly since the house was sworn in,” she admits.
She cites the inexperience of the lawmakers behind their failure to make legislation for women protection.
“Almost 80 percent of the members of the incumbent provincial assembly including the women elected on reserved seats are voted to the house for the first time and they had no parliamentary experience. Now we have started work on the bill and hopefully, we will soon get it passed from the house,” Ms Humayun says.
According to statistics collected by Aurat Foundation, a non government organization working for women’s rights, in 2015, as many as 427 cases of domestic violence were reported in newspapers throughout the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. However, the foundation puts the number of such cases far bigger than the reported ones.
“There are plenty of women in our society who are being tortured and victimized but they are not usually reported, because in our society, it is generally presumed that men have the privilege to beat women while the female members have to bear it as way of their life,” Saima Munir, Senior Manager at Aurat Foundation says.
Ms Munir reveals that among the reported cases of violence, 50 percent of the female victims are killed while many are attacked with acids.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government recently prepared a draft bill for the protection of women’s rights and sent to Islamic Ideology Council(IIC) for review. However, the council rejected the draft on grounds that some of its clauses were un-Islamic and against social norms.
Right wing political party, Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (F) lawmaker in KP assembly, Mufti Said Janan was also consulted during the preparation process of the bill draft. But he says his reservations over the draft bill were not addressed.
The lawmaker alleges that the PTI-led government prepared the draft on the insistence of some right activists and certain non-government organizations and that is why his reservations over the draft bill were not addressed completely.
“We held several rounds of meetings and debated the issue. The government then didn’t table the draft bill in the house. Instead, the Law Department sent the draft directly to the CII which turned down it as some of its clauses were against our social norms,” Mufti Janan recalls.
“One of the clauses of the draft bill suggests imprisonment and fine for a man who calls his wife “doomed”. The Council observed that if implemented, the law would destroy family system instead of providing protection to women from domestic violence,” the JUI-F lawmaker explains, adding there are some other clauses as well, which can be classified as objectionable.
Legal experts and social activists have expressed resentment over the rejection of the draft bill and termed the act by CII as an encroachment from its jurisdiction. Senior advocate Wali Khan Afridi says the CII is an advisory body and it cannot undo any legislation.
“The CII was established with good intentions. The prime responsibility of the council is to suggest amendments in laws which are in contradiction with Quran and Sunnah. However, the platform is now politicized and it has lost its legitimacy,” he observed.
Saima Munir, terms it failure of the provincial government for not making any legislation for the elimination of domestic violence against women and protection of their rights.
She says people will wonder if they come to know about the irrational objections raised by the CII on the draft bill.”As per the understanding of the CII, since mental torture cannot be proved, so it is not a torture. Therefore, Any clause related to mental torture should be excluded from the law,” she argues.
“Similarly, the Council has raised objections over other points which are already incorporated in laws of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and there is no need to pass a separate law for it. In other instances, the Council even raised objection over grammatical mistakes,” Munir says.
“The Punjab government did not consider the recommendations of the CII while adopting the law regarding protection of women rights. Consequently, the Council took its anger out on KP,” she remarks.
Following the rejection of the CII, the draft bill has now been referred to a committee of the women legislators headed by Jamaat-e-Islami MPA Rashida Riffat. She says that the draft bill will be tabled in the next session of the house as all homework has been done including consultations with fellow legislators, religious scholars and legal experts.
“We have removed all those sections from the draft bill on which the CII had raised objections. We will table the bill in the coming session of the assembly. It is upto the Law Department whether it sends the bill to the CII or sends it back to the house for final approval,” Riffat informs.
Due to the absence of effective legislation, women who are subjected to domestic violence mostly do not get justice on time. They usually end up in a situation like that of Farzana, who has been kicked out from home by her husband. Though, Farzana’s husband has married another woman, but he is not ready to divorce her. He also wants to take the custody of his two sons presently living with Farzana.
Farzana says, “she has approached the court to get divorce from her husband and retain her children’s custody.
“I want to raise my kids in a better environment. I don’t want them to bring up illiterate like their father and quarrel on petty matters. I want them to be kind with their wives,” she desires.