Pakistani Advisory Body Says Men Can Lightly Beat Their Wives

Pakistani Men

A constitutional body in Pakistan recently proposed a legislation that would permit husbands to lightly beat their wives for declining sex or refusing to wear modest clothing as preferred by their spouses. The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) is yet to finalize the 160-page draft before it is sent to lawmakers in Punjab Province for approval. Apart from lightly beating their wives for the above reasons, the document also allows husbands to make use of limited violence if their wives do not bathe during menstruation or after intercourse.

Providing guidelines on how to inflict these beatings, CII head Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani said, “Hit her in areas where her skin is not too thick and not too thin… Do not use shoes or a broom on the head, or hit her on the nose or eyes. Do not break any bones or cut her skin or leave any marks… Do not hit her vindictively, but only for reminding her about her religious duties.”

While CII itself cannot pass laws in Pakistan, it does offer advice to both the government as well as parliament.

Obviously, this recent proposal sparked outrage across the country.

“This is unbelievable,” said Allama Tahir Ashrafi, a former member of CII, who resigned for what he described as religious reasons. “So, what is 'light beating' and 'limited violence'? Not chopping off their heads but only, say, burning them in oil? Violence is forbidden by Islam, period. The council should be speaking about rape, about the increasing divorce rate, about suicide bombing — but they avoid these issues.”

The draft bill offers a step-by-step guide on how to administer these light beatings. According to the document, if a wife defies her husband, he should try talking to her about it at first but when that fails, he should sleep separately before finally resorting to violence as the last resort.

Questioning the practicality of the proposal, Rana Sanaullah, law minister from Punjab Province, said, “Will the Maulana [religious scholar] observe every beating himself, personally? How will he ensure that 'light beating' doesn't become 'heavy beating’?”

Well, CII states if any man does not follow the above protocol, he would be prosecuted.
Even though Pakistan was the first Muslim country to elect a woman to its highest office, with Benazir Bhutto leading as Prime Minister through the 80s and 90s until her assassination in 2007, it has consistently ranked as one of the worst countries in the world for women’s education and employment.

CII’s controversial draft legislation came as a response to an unconventional and liberal move by Punjab Province, which wanted to push for a progressive gender-equality law known as Protection of Women Against Violence Act that would give women increased rights and power, such as attaching electronic tracking bracelets on their violent and abusive husbands.

Rejecting this bill as un-Islamic, CII decided to take matters into its own hands instead. Apart from administering light beatings, CII’s proposal also seeks to ban women from important spaces in Pakistani society. For example, women would not be allowed to attend coeducational classes after completing primary school or join combat squads in the armed forces or nurse male patients in hospitals unless of course they happen to be related to them.

However, CII’s proposal does make certain paltry concessions for Pakistan’s female population, stating clearly that they should be allowed to inherit property and offered protection from being forced out of their households if their husbands happen to die without a will and they should not be subjected to acid attacks, honour killings or forced marriages.

Yet, the list of punishable offences continues, with the draft elaborating how women should be lightly beaten if they refuse to wear their hijabs, offer money to others without the permission of their husbands and talk loudly for their neighbours to hear. The draft also states that women must be forced to breastfeed their children until they are two years old and allowed to use contraception only with the permission of their husbands.

“Disgusting,” said human-rights lawyer Asma Jahangir, “But we shouldn't be worried. The women of Pakistan know how to protect themselves.”

Days after Sherani attempted to clarify CII’s scandalous suggestions, dozens of women from Pakistan People’s Party decided to stage a demonstration in front of the Governor’s House to condemn the constitutional body’s draft legislation.

Carrying placards, reading ‘Remove Sherani from CII’, ‘No to CII’, ‘Stop Insulting Women’, ‘Stop Promoting Women Vigilance’ and ‘Stop Violence Against Women’, the protesters chanted slogans demanding equal rights for women.

“They have nothing better to do in their meetings than discussing women,” said former PPP Women Wing finance secretary Shaista Javaid Jan. “The CII has made it a habit of coming up with new recommendations concerning women in almost all of its meetings.”

Another protester, Naveela Faisal Mir, said at least half of CII’s 20 members should comprise of women because the interpretation of the Holy Quran as well as the Hadiths need to evolve in keeping with the requirements of today’s society. Accusing CII of interpreting the Quran in an antiquated manner, Mir said the constitutional body should leave women’s issues aside and divert their energies towards finding ways in which religious extremism and terrorism can be brought to an end in Pakistan.

Join the Atheist Republic Community

Fearing that CII’s recommendations could lead to more incidents of violence against women, a third protester, Nadra Zarrar, stressed how Pakistan continues to rank poorly on issues related to women’s rights.

Aqeela Yusaf, yet another demonstrator, said Bhutto’s struggle as a Prime Minister had inspired women in Pakistan to come forward and assume leading roles in different walks of life.

“PPP would not let the CII push women back to the Stone Age,” she said.

Contributing to these sentiments, a Pakistani photographer, Fahhad Rajper, said the first time he heard about CII’s draft legislation, it gave him a disturbing feeling.

“Islam doesn’t preach [any] such thing, be it for a man or a woman,” he said in an email, “A majority of Pakistanis do not approve of the bill, anyone who’s sane enough wouldn’t be okay with it.”

To take a stand against CII’s bigotry, Rajper launched a photo series, popularized on social media as #TryBeatingMeLightly, to showcase the reactions of Pakistani women. His subjects helped him out by offering captions to his black and white portraits.

In a similarly shocking incident in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s national television channel aired a video, showing a self-styled Islamic doctor tutoring men on how to properly beat their wives. It is understood that the Saudi government had already approved the contents of the video, which is why it was first aired in the kingdom in February before being released in the United States via Middle East Media Research Institute in April this year.

The video features Khaled Al-Saqaby training men on how to properly beat their wives. In his tutorial, Saqaby can be seen telling husbands not to immediately attack their spouses but try disciplining them first. He then goes on to say that in a marriage, there is nothing called equality, as men are supposed to take charge and rule over their household.

When a woman disobeys her husband, Saqaby says, “The first step is to remind her of your rights and of her duties according to Allah. Then comes the second step – forsaking her in bed. The third step, beating, has to correspond with necessary Islamic conditions before being put to action. The beating should not be performed with a rod, nor should it be done with a headband or a sharp object. Instead, husbands should use a tooth-cleaning twig or a handkerchief to beat their wife. The wife will feel that she was wrong in the way she treated her husband.”

Before ending his controversial tutorial, Saqaby admits that his advice on wife beating may not be as exhaustive, and occasionally men may feel the need to hit their wives without necessarily following his steps. This holds especially true when dealing with women who are ‘stubborn’, he says.  For those who tend to provoke their husbands, only beatings can help discipline them.

“In addition, sometimes a woman makes a mistake that may lead her husband to beat her. I’m sad to say there are some women who say ‘Go ahead, if you are a real man, beat me’. She provokes them,” he added.

The video offering training to men on how to properly beat their wives, naturally infuriated women across the kingdom as well as in America. While those in Saudi Arabia did not know exactly what steps to take against the airing of the video, women’s rights groups in the United States have called on the government to condemn its contents.

Photo Credits: W3 Live News

If you like our posts, subscribe to the Atheist Republic newsletter to get exclusive content delivered weekly to your inbox.

Click Here to Subscribe

Donating = Loving

Heart Icon

Bringing you atheist articles and building active godless communities takes hundreds of hours and resources each month. If you find any joy or stimulation at Atheist Republic, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.

Or make a one-time donation in any amount.