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Top Pakistani Religious Body: Women’s Protection Law Is Un-Islamic

A Pakistani religious body called a new law designed to protect women from abuse "un-Islamic."

Karachi, PAKISTAN: Pakistani high-profile gang rape victim Mukhtaran Mai (C) holds a torch light as she leads an International Women's Day rally in Karachi, 07 March 2007. The Independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in its annual report last month that there were 565 honour killings in Pakistan in 2006, nearly double the number in 2005. AFP PHOTO/Rizwan TABASSUM (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)
Karachi, PAKISTAN: Pakistani high-profile gang rape victim Mukhtaran Mai (C) holds a torch light as she leads an International Women's Day rally in Karachi, 07 March 2007. The Independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in its annual report last month that there were 565 honour killings in Pakistan in 2006, nearly double the number in 2005. AFP PHOTO/Rizwan TABASSUM (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)

When the Women’s Protection Act was passed in Pakistan’s Punjab province’s regional assembly last month, advocates believed it signaled progress for women’s rights in a region that sees thousands of cases of sexual violence reported each year.

The Pakistani religious body that determines whether provincial or federal laws comply with Islam had a different view: the act — which would create new investigation teams, require GPS trackers for sexual offenders, and require jail time for certain domestic abuse cases — was “un-Islamic.”

“The whole law is wrong,” Muhammad Khan Sherani, head of the Council of Islamic Ideology, said at a news conference Thursday. The influential religious body advises legislators before bills are sworn into law, and its members’ opinions have historically influenced public opinion on proposed bills.

The Women’s Protection Act, which would also create a hotline for victims of sexual and domestic abuse, has been condemned by many right-wing clerics who say it directly conflicts with the Quran. On Thursday, Pakistani Supreme Court lawyer Mohammad Aslam Khaki asked the Federal Shariat Court to label the law as offensive to Islam, Pakistan’s state religion.  The court makes final decisions on what does and does not constitute as Islamic.

This is far from the first time a law has been condemned by the Council of Islamic Ideology. In January, it blocked a bill that would establish new, stricter punishment for child marriage. And in an earlier case, it ruled that DNA cannot be used as primary evidence in cases of rape — which has infuriated human rights activists. Instead, it supported a bill that would require any woman accusing a man of rape to provide the court with at least four male witnesses in order to allow the case to move forward.

The council’s decision this January to block a bill to impose harsher penalties for marrying off girls as young as eight or nine also angered human rights activists.

Photo Credit: RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images

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