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EDITORIAL: Perhaps it was a better idea for the Council for Islamic Ideology (CII) to promote a healthy debate on the Domestic Violence Bill 2020 instead of immediately putting the brakes on any further legislation on it. The CII is, after all, a legally constituted formal institution meant to provide guidance to the executive in light of the laws and teaching of Islam. And since Islam is an organic religion, unlike others, in that it has the built in provision of ijtihad, the Council is expected to take the lead in explaining how its rules can and must expand to keep up with the times. No doubt there are millions upon millions of matters that governments and individuals face now that they didn’t in previous times, and it is precisely the novelty of ijtihad that ought to enable Muslims to adapt quickly and in a manner which is in keeping with our great teachings. This is one of Islam’s many great strengths.

There are, quite naturally, issues in the DVB that didn’t exist before, like digital harassment and exploitation, and there is no reason to let them go unaddressed while certain sections of society decide how to feel about them. We must never forget that one of the fundamental teachings of Islam, as indeed of most other religions, is respect for women. And when women become victims of discrimination at home, or any other place for that matter, then society as a whole suffers in the long run for reasons that everybody understands only too well. We must never become a country where domestic violence is even vaguely seen to be sanctioned; especially for reasons that involve religion. And CII must guide the state on how to move forward on such sensitive yet extremely important issues, not drag us towards obscurantism.

Whatever one thinks of the DVB, nobody can deny the fact that over the years ours has become a visibly male-dominated society in which women are generally not just sidelined, but also often abused. And except the educated, upper classes, the role of women never really evolved from the old glorified version of the house servant. Since a very large portion of our very large population comprises not-so-educated and not-so-rich families, the number of women suffering such fate in this Islamic republic is very high. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the annual report of the state of human rights in Pakistan, released by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), for 2020 once again paints a very alarming picture of the state of women’s rights in the country. Domestic and sexual violence come out on top as more women suffer needlessly with every passing year.

It is very clear that this problem grew for so long only before the state refused to take this particular bull by the horns. And if it continues to look the other way while CII and other advisory groups bounce the practicality and legitimacy of initiatives like DVB off each other then there is a good chance that it will snowball and then nobody is going to be able to do much about it at all. Therefore, the government, and all legally appointed bodies that pour all sorts of advice into it, must proceed with full seriousness and great speed with the intent to take such issues towards completion. They must understand that they do neither the state nor the people, nor our great and practical religion for that matter, any good by delaying important business of the state.

It can only be hoped that such issues will not drag endlessly any longer. At the end of the day, finding our social balance is just as important as regaining our economic wellbeing.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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