North-South Centre of the Council of Europe

5 August 2009

Statement by the Chair of the North-South Centre on the adoption of the law criminalizing domestic violence in Pakistan

As Chair of the North-South Centre and co-ordinator for Italy of the Council of Europe’s campaign against domestic violence, I would like to congratulate the National Assembly of Pakistan which, on 4 August, adopted the “Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill” to prevent violence against women and towards children within families, to protect victims of violence and punish perpetrators. I note with satisfaction that this new law not only prohibits domestic violence and foresees fines and prison sentences for men who hit their wives or their children, but also requires provincial governments to establish welfare committees to help victims to obtain medical or legal assistance and to transfer them if necessary to a safer place.

The adoption of this new law is a very important step in the fight against a curse that has been ignored - or even tolerated - for too long. The North-South Centre has, among others, attracted world attention on this issue by giving the North-South Prize 2006 to Mukhtaran Bibi (more known as Mukhtar Mai), sentenced in 2002 by the jirga (tribal court) of her village to a gang rape and finally got justice before the judicial authorities, following the mobilisation of international public opinion. I appeal now to the Senate and the President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari to take the necessary measures for this law to come into effect as soon as possible.

For my part, I will continue to be involved in the fight to combat violence against women and children, because I am convinced that domestic violence is the matrix on which all other forms of violence thrive. The Conference on the role which the different forms of media can play to prevent and combat violence against women, which will be held in Venice on 9 September in the framework of the 66th International Film Festival, will be a new opportunity to raise European and world public awareness on the fight against this curse that we must eradicate.