Pakistan’s top Islamic court, the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) has given its approval to a law passed by the Punjab Assembly for the protection of women and declared that it was not against the injunctions of Islam.
An FSC bench comprising Chief Justice Dr Syed Mohammad Anwar and Justice Khadim Hussain M. Sheikh announced its reserved judgement on the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act, 2016 and said it was in line with the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
The law, which was the first of its kind in the country, provided comprehensive protection to women against a range of crimes.
The judgement stated that in Islam, violence is disliked and strictly controlled and the religion has protected women from all sorts of violence. The verdict quoted some hadith and added that Islam has “highly encouraged” and praised taking care of and protecting women from all kinds of violence.
“No provision of the impugned Act is against the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), hence the captioned petitions are hereby DISMISSED,” the judgement said, adding that there was no force in the petitioners’ argument who challenged the act.
The court also conceded that the reports submitted by the respondents regarding the working and results of the Violence Against Women Center (VAWC) established under the impugned Act in Multan are “quite encouraging and positive”.
The court also directed the Punjab government to ensure proper implementation of the law and roll it out in every district of the province.
The court also sought a compliance report on the implementation and rollout of the law.
While emphasising the importance of the said legislation, the court recommended that other provinces follow suit by enacting similar laws.
The bill was passed on February 24, 2016, by the Punjab Assembly, almost nine months after it was approved by the provincial cabinet in May 2015. The delay was caused because of in-house objections even from lawmakers belonging to the then-ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
The law provided protection to women against a range of domestic, sexual, psychological and economic abuse, along with stalking and cyber crimes, perpetrated by their husband(s), sibling(s), adopted children, relatives and employers.
It also introduced for the first time an ‘in-built implementation mechanism’ through the district VAWCs, court orders (residence, protection and monetary) and the introduction of GPS-tracked electronic bracelets/anklets on men to enforce protection orders and restrict the ability to enter any place to secure female victims.
However, days after it was adopted, the legislation landed in the FSC as its provisions were challenged in the court. The petitioners had urged the court to declare it — especially Section 7(d)(e) of the act — repugnant to Islam, the Holy Quran and Sunnah. The section provided for placing GPS ankle or wrist trackers on men to monitor their movement.