Rabat - Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology issued a bill proposal to allow for men to “lightly beat” their wives. Citing the Qur’an, it justified abusive behavior and violence against women, so long as it aligned with specific guidelines.
Rabat – Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology issued a bill proposal to allow for men to “lightly beat” their wives. Citing the Qur’an, it justified abusive behavior and violence against women, so long as it aligned with specific guidelines.
Chairman of the CII Mohammad Khan Sherani cited certain behaviors of women as deserving of this light beating, including refusing to obey their husbands’ commands, declining to wear a hijab, speaking to unrelated males, not bathing after intercourse or menstruation, or refusing sexual intercourse without a religious excuse, or speaking too loudly.
This proposed bill also permits women to enter politics or become judges, suggests that a woman does not need a male guardian, and bans women from fighting in wars. The dramatic actions encouraged by this bill are largely backlash to the recently passed but not enacted Women’s Protection Act, which enforced strict legal penalties for violence against women. This law was unequivocally opposed by the CII. Sherani said that the Women’s Protection Act was un-Islamic, stating that “The whole law is wrong.”
The CII was formed to provide religious oversight and commentary on Pakistan’s laws. They do not, however, have the authority to pass laws.
Pakistan has a steep divide between de jure and de facto rights for women. Since independence, women have enjoyed the right to vote and drive. Benazir Bhutto, previous prime minister, represented a giant step towards gender equality. However, many of these laws are predominant in urban centers, while rural areas (including and especially the Federally Administered Tribal Area) present massive extra-legal obstacles to women seeking equal rights and opportunities as men.
This proposed law ignited fierce backlash. Political leaders and human rights activists alike have publically criticized the bill in no uncertain terms. Farzana Bari, one such activist at Quaid-i-Azam University, lambasted the bill tarnishing the reputation of Pakistan. She said that the bill “has nothing to do with Islam” and called for the CII to be dissolved.
Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission stated that it is “difficult to comprehend why anyone in his right mind would think that any further encouragement or justification is needed to invite violence upon women in Pakistan.” It proceeded to encourage the bill to be “condemned unreservedly by all segments of society.”
One weapon in the CII’s political arsenal is to accuse lawmakers of blasphemy if they refuse to enact the proposed bill. If found guilty, lawmakers can be sentenced to death. This represents an unlikely extreme, but is nonetheless a legal possibility.
Media has also attacked the bill for being an archaic vestige of abusive times. Dawn, a prominent Pakistani English-language newspaper, has published many articles which criticize the CII’s proposal on legal, moral, and religious grounds. Pakistani women took to Twitter to voice their opposition to the bill under the hashtag #TryBeatingMeLightly. Various threats against hypothetical abusers and expressions of indignation at the bill dominated the feed.
The CII’s bill has yet to be passed in any capacity, and remains a contentious issue. The Human Rights Commission maintains that it has a very low probability of ever becoming a law.