Pakistan’s top advisory body constituting renowned clerics, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), has come up with their own version of the Protection of Women Against Violence Act 2016 (PWA). The CII wants to save society from the ruin that will be caused by the offensively ‘un-Islamic’ bill, hence their own bill created by Mufti Imdadullah, who belongs to JUI-F, adds all the clauses that give women the rights that Islam has assigned for them and makes them acceptable to the CII men. The salient features of the women protection bill proposed by the CII include the permission for the husband to ‘lightly’ beat his wife if she disobeys him, wants females to quit the workforce and sit at home as prescribed by sharia laws.

Though the body probably unanimously agreed upon such light beatings, one wonders if they considered the fact that this was a law created for women, and that maybe a female opinion should be taken on the matter. Taking cue from the way women are given “liberties” in Saudi Arabia, beatings are to be allowed if a woman does not wear the Hijab, interacts with strangers and provides monetary support to people without taking consent first of her spouse. This revision is not meant to make the original PWA acceptable to all parties, it is meant to completely reverse and discredit the momentum gained to protect the women of Pakistan. The PWA is supposed to protect women, not create laws that open them to more male abuse in case they don’t cover their head or talk to a stranger.

The CII has only made it clear that the recent wave of support to reform the clerical body is the right path to take. Just when the women of Pakistan are making strides in every arena possible from politics and education to the air force and military, the CII believes that women have no place in the workforce. It says there should be a ban on co-education after primary education, ban on women from taking part in military combat, ban on welcoming foreign delegations, interacting with males and making recreational visits with ‘Na-Mehrams’. The bill only stops short of the suggestion to bring back stoning and whipping in public and the infamous Hudood Ordinance.

With the government regularly establishing its resolve to root out extremism from the country it is about time it extends its efforts towards this regressive institution. Any compromise on protecting women from violence, no matter what a woman wears or who she speaks to or where she wants to work, is a step backward for our country, straight into savagery and barbarity.