All the religious groups in Pakistan got together a few weeks ago as one voice to raise their concerns about the Women’s Protection Act of Punjab. One would think it would have been in regards to how to make it better or stronger. Sadly, it was the other way around. They demanded that the government withdraw the act.

The 31-clause act’s main aim was to protect women from all forms of violence with a proper system for complaint registration as well as penalties.

They said that the bill was un-Islamic while saying in the same breath that Islam does not allow violence on women. Keeping that in mind, should they not be happy then, that the people who actually assault women would be punished due to the bill?

Many people and I myself talked and wrote about this emphasizing on the fact that only a man who beats his wife or wants the right to do so, would have a problem with the act. One who actually respects women would always agree full heartedly to protect women everywhere.

Did some sense prevail?

Let’s see.

On Monday, the Upper house passed four new bills, which included anti-honor killing and anti-rape laws. (Both Criminal Laws Amendment, 2014).

To the average person, these would be great steps in the right direction. But once again, our religious groups spoke up firmly opposing both laws.

Pakistan has one of the world’s highest if not the highest number of honor killings per year. The average number stands at an alarming 1,000. This does not include the cases that go unreported/hidden due to ‘shame’ and cultural taboos.

Honor for some reason is nearly always dependent on women. In some areas, a simple thing like a woman’s dupatta slipping from her head is enough for her to have dishonored her family. If she is seen out alone talking to an unknown man, it could be for any innocent reason, it will have brought dishonor too. For such nonsensical reasons, women are killed to preserve the family’s honor. 

Anyone who does not think we need these laws clearly does not think much of women.

Recently, in the university of SWAT, the chancellor Hazrat Bilal put up a notice, which stated that males and females are not allowed to walk or sit together in or outside the campus. You have to remember, these were not little kids, rather adults ready to go out, make a living and support their families. Anyone who did not comply with the rules would have to pay a fine ranging from Rs 50 to Rs. 5,000.

This was followed by a lot of ridicule and the chancellor himself was suspended, but there were still many who supported it and proudly claimed they would kill girls who bought any dishonor.

Warning: Explicit language

These are the average supposedly educated people with access to the Internet who are casually talking about murder the way someone talks about swatting a fly. And if the average person thinks like this, we certainly need stricter and specific laws to counter it.

Similarly, like honor killing most rape cases go unreported in Pakistan as well. People generally consider a woman raped is the one who brings shame to the family. Excuses are instead made to excuse the rapist.

“Did you see what she was wearing? No wonder she was raped.”

“Serves her right to be out alone.”

“He is a young boy. He just made a mistake.”

“If we tell anyone she was raped, who will marry her?”

Even some of the Pakistani TV plays glorify rapists.

If that wasn’t enough, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) ruled DNA as unacceptable evidence in rape cases. So the ones that are even reported, are just the more difficult to prove.

In the last five years, there were 103 reported rape cases where the culprits/accused were not brought to justice.

We need these laws to improve conviction rates, to bring justice to the victims and also to set examples so a person thinks twice about raping/hurting another.

The CII regards the bill as against the constitution and even the two nation theory. How they got to this reasoning is mind-boggling to me. How can any law, which protects women, be against the Constitution?

In both cases, sometimes the culprits are influential people from various backgrounds and they bully/threaten the families and even the police at times to back off. Other times, the police themselves see nothing wrong with the general population playing murder.

To reiterate, every religious group is taking a stand against these laws. EVERY single one.

So many people turn to these religious scholars (Ghamidi sahab being the exception) for guidance. If only they would take a united stand against violence against women and state that it is wrong. If only they would say that anyone who kills, rapes, assaults another women should be punished. If only they thought that the dignity of a woman as being her own rather than theirs.

If only they actually cared about protecting women, then they would welcome these laws; not fight it. Their students and followers would also listen and learn that violence should not be welcomed.

If only.