Earlier this year, Pakistan’s most populated province of Punjab gave women a chance to escape domestic violence by approving the Protection of Women Against Violence Act — a bill that was not flawless by any means and required a lot of improvement, but was a step in the right direction.
The religious bodies in the Islamic country, however, did not agree with the move. In fact, they dubbed the law contrary to Islam.
Recently, in an effort to stop the act’s expansion to the rest of the country, Pakistan’s top clerical group, responsible for giving recommendations to parliament regarding Islamic laws, weighed in on the controversy with its own set of proposals.
The Council of Islamic Ideology, which constitutes of 20 scholars, presented Punjab Assembly with 163-page document that provides a clear view of how the most conservatives still view women.
“A husband should be allowed to lightly beat his wife if she defies his commands and refuses to dress up as per his desires, turns down demand of intercourse without any religious excuse or does not take bath after intercourse or menstrual periods,” the report said, according to the country’s The Express-Tribune.
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Along with legalizing a “light” form of domestic violence (whatever that means), the proposal also suggested multiple bans on women: prohibiting them from attending same educational institutes as men, keeping them from taking part in military combat and forbidding women from welcoming foreign delegations.
In other words, the council wants women to stop interacting with men altogether, unless they are immediate family.
The draft also said female nurses should not take care of male patients and recommended that women should not work in TV advertisements. The clerics have also asked to declare abortion 120 days after conception as “murder.”
The only things female population of the country is allowed to do, according to the council, is join politics and marry without parents’ permission. It also said if any non-Muslim woman is forced to convert, which is not uncommon in Pakistan, the oppressor will be awarded three-year imprisonment while the woman will be allowed to revert to her previous faith.
The bill, which is apparently under consideration, attracted a lot of criticism for its “light beating” measure. People called it violent and abusive toward women as it gives husbands a legal right to hit their wives at their pleasure.
The backlash got so out of control that Council of Islamic Ideology Chairman Mualana Muhammad Khan Sherani had to hold a press conference in the capital city of Islamabad to clarify their intent. But the attempt to subdue critics turned into a much bigger debacle.
“Do not try to relate our proposal (on beating women) with violence. Light beating does not mean violence,” Sherani explained during a press briefing Thursday. “The issue has been blown totally out of proportions. Everyone condemns violence. People need to be educated to stay away from violence.”
Meanwhile, the female members of the Punjab Assembly have also slammed the council's set of proposals.
“Through their proposed recommendations they have reflected their mindset,” said Raheela Khadim, chair of the standing committee on gender. “We are talking about holding wife beaters accountable and they are proposing something in complete contrast.”