Violence against women in Pakistan is an endemic social issue that continues to have grave impact on the female gender in the society.
Domestic violence in particular, is a not just an evil in the society, it is, in fact, violation of a woman’s right to physical integrity, to liberty and all too often, to her right to life itself. It can further be categorised into physical, emotional and psychological abuse.
When states fail to take the basic steps needed to protect women from domestic violence or completely eliminate the evil of violence from the society, the situation just continues to worsen in the society for women.
Although domestic violence can impact men as well but generally women are the victim of abuse in our society. This brutal crime destroys families and can even lead to death in some cases. Even though there has been improvement in spreading awareness about this, a lot of work still needs to be done to put an end to domestic violence.
The process, however, is difficult to start when there are forces in the society actively trying to sabotage any progress the society may be ready to make.
Last month, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), a constitutional body responsible for ensuring that no legislature in the country is repugnant to Islam, had proposed a ‘model’ bill, which allows a husband to ‘lightly’ beat his wife ‘if needed’ and prohibits mixing of the genders in schools, hospitals and offices.
The CII’s proposed bill was presented in response to the Protection of Women Against Violence bill (PWAV) 2016, which was passed in the Punjab Assembly earlier this year and is aimed at providing relief to women facing domestic abuse.
While talking to Pakistan Today, Punjab Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) Chairperson Fauzia Viqar said that the CII’s remarks on light beating are a violation of the constitutional rights of women in Pakistan.
“Women are entitled to full protection under the law, and under Article 25 of the constitution of Pakistan, no discrimination can be made on the basis of sex. It is illegal,” she said.
She said that just as slavery clashes with fundamental human rights, the beating of women and mistreating them is unacceptable in today’s society.
CII has drawn up a bill with 163 recommendations addressing issues relating to marriage, motherhood, property, crimes and violence against women among others. The bill also allows men to ‘lightly beat their wives’ a measure purportedly designed to protect women’s rights.
Pakistan Today approached CII’s Chairperson Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani but he was unavailable to comment on the issue.
In the past few years more than 800 cases of domestic violence have been reported to HRCP. It is also one of the reasons Pakistan is one of the most unsafe countries for women where a new case of violence emerges almost every day. The proposal can lead to an increase in the number of victims subjected to violence.
When contacted HRCP Director Hussain Naqi said that this ‘model’ bill is nothing more than a bid to ‘scandalise Islam’ which may cause an increase in domestic violence cases as a constitutional body has given men the validation to hit and abuse their wives.
He further added that, “CII will soon pass a Fatwa reintroducing slavery, both slave boys and slave girls. It is something that the Quaid had realised at the very inception of Pakistan.”
“He had categorically stated that the state of Pakistan will have nothing to do with religion. That would be the personal affair of a citizen. The reigning establishment should realise its folly and revert to the founder’s declaration about keeping the estate secular,” the HRCP director said.
Earlier, PCSW said in a press release: “Such a law threatens the rights of women. It also reverses the rights gained over a century through the process of evolution of fundamental rights and freedoms.”
Moreover, the people think the members of the CII are scholars who should be able to guide them with regard to religion, but the misinterpretation of religion breeds violence towards women in the society. CII’s statement directly contradicts the Women Protection Bill, he further added.
Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Chief Sirajul Haq told Pakistan Today that “Our religion has given women a high position”. He further compared women to precious gems and said that’s how valuable women are in the society. This eliminates the idea of beating women completely, he added.
While talking about the position of women in Islam, the JI chief gave Hazrat Ayesha Siddiqa’s (RA) example. He said the esteemed position and value that was given to her was the reason why women were able to learn important things about Islam from her.
He elaborated, saying, “If women and her opinions were not given importance, then half of our religion would not be known to us.”
Treating women with love and care should be the ideal practice of our society, he said.
Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) Chief Maulana Tahir Ashrafi was of the opinion that the husband and wife should not fight as a minor rift may worsen and end up in physical abuse.
“The two partners are like clothes for each other; both are given equal value and that they should maintain the honour and dignity for each other,” the PUC chief added. Nowhere in the Quran and Sunnah does our religion permit the man to beat a woman, Ashrafi said.
This ‘model’ bill negated the already existing laws on women’s protection in the country. It also undermines the position of Pakistan in the global community.
Pakistan Today contacted the only female member of CII Dr Samia Raheel Qazi for comments, who said, “I was not in the country when the meeting was chaired. After receiving the minutes of the meeting, I wrote back protesting against Maulana Sherani’s statement, but no action was taken.”
Earlier she stated that only two or three members of the council are active, while the others remain silent.
She said women are a segment of the society that needs to be to be treated with respect and honour men shouldn’t beat them or kill them. She said that Surah Nisa’s Ayah 34 is misquoted and exploited by the media, society and the Muslims.
She elaborated on the Ayah stating that a man is the organiser of family unit, the wife is one grade below the husband, in the same way the mother is three grades above the father for her kids, which is why they say paradise lies underneath the feet of the mother.
The second half of the Ayah states that if the wife is stubborn then the husband should divorce her, and send her back to her parents’ home. If you don’t want to send her back then make her understand and the next step would be to separate, or have separate beds. And if that does not work, then the men can lightly hit the women and by lightly hitting, it means that they can hit her with a handkerchief or a feather or lightly hit her with a hand implying that she should agree with the husband. Nowhere does it allow the husband to throw acid or injure and break their spouse’s bones, this is not ‘light beating’ nor is it written in the Quran, she said.
It is believed that a woman is created from a man’s rib, which is below the shoulder and near to the heart, which implies that she should be kept safe and loved. And the man should be able to provide that. Women are not created in this world so she can experience violence or harsh behaviour from anyone.
In light of recent cases, Dr Samia says, “Allah has created women as the most beautiful beings on earth and imposing violence on her is equal to destroying our world.”
To counter the problem, she says that the family fabric should be kept intact with love, compassion and respect. Masjids and Union councils should have family courts, which can resolve any small family disputes, rather than taking it to a higher level.
Similarly, any act of violence against women cannot been justified according to the norms of the society just as the religion does not support such acts.
Lastly, the idea of quantifying ‘lightly beating’ is a problematic one, as domestic abuse, verbally or psychologically can cause extreme suffering and trauma. The nature of domestic violence is such that women can suffer a great deal even if the beating is ‘light’ – they may be slapped around and manhandled and abused constantly, which leads to an extremely toxic environment. Thus, laws on domestic violence should be made more strict, so women can be empowered in every field of life. It is not for the constitution or for the society to make provisions for any form of physical or psychological abuse of women.