On Friday June 21st, Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa announced that Pakistan will set up more than 1,000 courts dedicated to tackling violence against women in the country. Each court will deal specifically with cases of violence against women in the country to cultivate an environment where women can speak up without fear of repercussions.
The decision to create these courts comes after multiple high profile cases of violence against women in Pakistan and recent laws to combat violence against women. One of these laws is a mandated minimum sentence of 25 years in prison for those convicted of honor killings. This law closed a dangerous legal loophole that previously allowed killers to go free if they were forgiven by the family of the victim. Honor killings are largely carried out by family members of the victim, so murderers were often guaranteed a pardon for their crimes, leaving women and girls vulnerable to abusive patriarchal family structures.
One of the highest profiled case of violence against women was the honor killing of a Pakistani celebrity, Qandeel Baloch, who was violently strangled to death by her brother. Baloch considered herself a feminist, and had nearly 750,000 followers on Facebook and 46,000 on Twitter. She used her social media fame to speak out against societal and political discrimination against women and was often seen on Pakistani television debating religious leaders about politics.
Although the new courts will operate in existing courthouses, domestic violence cases will be heard separately so that victims can testify in confidence. Shaista Bukhari, executive director of Pakistan’s Women’s Rights Association hopes that “if we initiate 1,000 courts to address and handle the affairs specifically related to violence on women, women will get the confidence and strength to speak up against exploitation and they will also be able to stand against it.”
Media sources: CNN 06/21/2019; Feminist Newswire 10/06/2016; Feminist Newswire 07/18/2016