The fact that Pakistan decided to establish one thousand gender-based violence (GBV) courts speaks volumes about a problem that the criminal justice system has long neglected. However, the special interest of the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa has encouraged others to understand the gravity of the problem.

Only days after the honourable CJP threw out an acquittal of an acid attack convict, saying, “Acid attack offenders do not deserve any clemency,” the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Punjab Arif Nawaz Khan also wants to play his part in curbing the growing trend of acts of GBV. The initiative of the Punjab IGP to establish units to control gender-based crimes across the province and assist the victims will compliment the working of the gendered-based violence courts.

Not forgetting the fact that Pakistan has been ranked as the third most dangerous place in the world for women, the recent steps to counter incidents of GBV taken by the authorities makes one optimistic about a possible reduction in GBV cases in future. Worth remembering is the fact that GBV in Pakistan is a natural corollary of a patriarchal social structure that has further been problematised by factors like prevalent illiteracy, ignorance and blind faith in the clergy. While the steps taken by the honourable CJP and the IGP Punjab will surely help in bringing down the incidents of GBV, there will remain many challenges for the state machinery to deal with.

First and foremost challenge is the issue of domestic violence. Though each province has its own set of legal statutes addressing the issue except for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), the fact is that these statutes have proved inefficient as well as insufficient to curtail the menace of domestic violence. According to one document, “women in Pakistan who try to report abuse face challenges, with the police and judges hesitating to take action, deeming such matters private home affairs.” Honour killing is another issue. Murderers do not think of the consequences while committing the crime and the attitude of the police makes matters worse.

Pakistan requires a sound, practical, synchronised and continual struggle to eradicate domestic violence from the society. It is clear that laws by themselves cannot successfully safeguard the rights of citizens, especially those of women and girls. The frighteningly high figures released by different women rights organisations are a testament to that. Laws have to be accompanied with implementing measures, and for most of the pro-women laws promulgated, the implementing and monitoring mechanisms are still pending.