Islam, Law Of The Land, Women’s Rights And Women’s Day In Pakistan
March 8 comes and goes every year. Like every year, this year also seminars, workshops and conferences were held all the day to mark March 8 as Women’s Day but unfortunately like every year this year also hardly any change could be seen to have been made in the life of a common Pakistani woman. Pakistan remains one of the most dangerous countries for women in the world, where everyday women face violence, and raising their voices against the injustices makes them rebels of the eastern norms and society.
Pakistani society is a combination of religion and culture, which carries all shades of traditionalism, tribalism and feudalism and the problem of such a society is its vulnerability as it is extremely prone to exploitation by extremist elements to safeguard their agenda, especially by playing the Islamic card.
Unfortunately, when women are subjected to violence or their rights are violated, people hardly remember if Islam has said anything about women’s rights and their protection but when it comes to taking measures for asserting the rights of women then such elements hop in to impose their version of Islam.
Islam is the religion that gave the concept of women’s rights to the world about 1400 years ago then why is it that today the women protection laws have become a conspiracy against Islam?
1400 years ago in pre-Islamic era, people used to bury their daughters alive, for their births were seen as a source of embarrassment for their families but Islam declared girls a blessing from Allah for their fathers. But here the question is, are women still not killed or buried alive in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan – sometimes in the name of honor and sometimes falling prey to different forms of domestic violence, despite the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2004 having made changes in the Pakistan Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code and thus including qatl-e-amd under the pretext of honour. That is now after the amendment of Section 302 of PPC, honor killing has been categorized under qatl-e-amd (intentional murder) the punishment of which is either life imprisonment or death, while Section 305 of PPC has also excluded the murderer from the definition of wali.
Islam and the law of the land give honorable status to women in the society, yet women are still supplied in exchange for settling disputes. Wanni and swara are still happening in different villages of our country despite the practice of giving females in badal-i-sulh being a penal offence according to Section 310 A of PPC:
“Whoever gives a female in marriage or otherwise compels her to enter into marriage, as badal-i-sulh, wanni or swara or any other custom or practice under any name, in consideration of settling a civil dispute or a criminal liability, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years but shall not be less than three years and shall also be liable to fine of five hundred thousand rupees..”
While assaulting and abusing women, our society forgets what our Holy Prophet (PBUH) said about how men should treat their women:
“The best of you is he who is best to his family and I am the best among you to my family”.
He also said:
“The best amongst you is the one who is best to his wives”.
Speaking about education, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) said it is incumbent upon every Muslim man and woman to acquire knowledge.
Similarly law of the land also gives girls the right to education as it has been guaranteed as a fundamental right in the Constitution of Pakistan but men in our society neither remember our beloved Prophet’s teachings nor the law while closing doors of education and enlightenment on girls just because of their conservative mindsets.
Islam and the law of the land allow women to work – we all know Hazrat Khadija our beloved Prophet’s wife was a working woman herself. Similarly our Constitution says there can be no discrimination against women in terms of rights to employment opportunities, yet in our society women are either not allowed to work and if they do, every possible effort is made to discourage them. Harassment of women at work is not a secret, even though we have anti-harassment laws in Pakistan.
Islam and the law of the land give women rights in inheritance. The Quran clearly states:
“Men shall have a share in what parents and kinsfolk leave behind, and women shall have a share in what parents and kinsfolk leave behind.” (Quran 4:7).
Similarly Article 23 recognizes the right of all the citizens including women to own property and indulge in any lawful business.
And also Section 498A of Pakistan Penal Code makes it an offence to deprive women from inheriting property:
“Whoever by deceitful or illegal means deprives any woman from inheriting any movable or immovable property at the time of opening of succession shall be punished with imprisonment for either description for a term, which may extend to ten years but not be less than five years or with a fine of one million rupees or both.”
In our society when women claim their share in inheritance they are shamed by the society and are mostly denied rights in inheritance due to our strong patriarchal setup.
Islam and the law give every sane Muslim man and woman who has attained puberty, the right to marry according to his/her consent but in our society it is a sin if a girl talks about marrying with her own consent and girls are still forced into marriages against their will despite Section 498B of PPC having declared it an offence.
“Whoever coerces or in any manner whatsoever compels a woman to enter into marriage shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term, which may extend to seven years or for a term which shall not be less than three years and shall also be liable to fine of five hundred thousand rupees.”
Women are an integral part of every society, whose importance cannot be denied on any level or forum. We all know that all those nations who are practicing gender equality today are the world’s biggest economies. Unfortunately we live in a society which is driven neither by enlightened and moderate teachings of Islam nor by the rule of law but only by tribal and feudal customs, traditions and conservative mindsets. No doubt laws have been made to ensure the security and protection of Pakistani women but the implementation of such laws has always been a big question mark in our system.
We had even taken a wise start, as before the creation of Pakistan women took active part in creating Pakistan and we all know how Fatima Jinnah stood side by side with her brother during the struggle for an independent homeland.
The founding father of the country Muhammad Ali Jinnah once said:
“We are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live”.
On another occasion he said:
“No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with your men”.
But there is always a lot of difference between theory and practice. Despite the fact that Islam and the Constitution of Pakistan have guaranteed all the rights of women, women continue to suffer and therefore marking these international days will not succeed in making any difference in the lives of women unless we educate our coming generations and ourselves.
Pakistan Penal Code (Act XLV of 1860)
The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (Pakistan)
The Constitution of Islamic Republic Of Pakistan
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any organization with which she might be associated.