Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A giant leap back (for woman kind)

This is a (admittedly narrow) look at certain aspects of civil laws currently in vogue in India and in Pakistan as it impacts on marriage in discriminatory ways.

In India personal laws concerning muslims are mostly regressive. Thus you have the ridiculous spectacle of a (hindu) deputy chief minister of Haryana converting to Islam in order to get married for the second time to a (hindu) lady who also converted for this purpose and then subsequently dumping her (talaq decree via SMS) to go back to his first wife, which led to the lady committing suicide. This is just wrong on so many levels that it simply makes my blood boil.

How about Pakistan? My impression is (based on limited knowledge) that Pakistani laws are far more protective of women's rights - in this case for muslims, but not for christians who have to prove adultery by spouse in order to win a divorce.

All of this may fit into a pattern of non-interference in minority affairs but that claim is again....simply ridiculous. Both India and Pakistani society would not think twice before harming minorities, killing people and destroying property, but personal laws are somehow a red line? If we are that concerned about minorities, India should pass the communal violence bill and Pakistan should withdraw the blasphemy law.

Two examples where Pak laws are clearly superior- (a) the minimum age of marriage (for women) is sixteen, which is not defined by puberty [ref. wiki], and (b) if men want to marry a second time they have to take permission from the first wife [ref. article below].

That was then, the future however looks pretty bleak due to the pronouncements by the Council of Islamic Ideology that current marriage rules are not in compliance with Sharia. All the carefully thought out compromises for the original bill (not to mention international obligations on child marriage) will now be discarded on the say so of the CII. 

The PPP human rights cell has raised its voice in opposition (full credit to them) and the comments section is almost uniformly dismissive of what the CII is proposing. It restores one's faith in humanity for a few nano-seconds before you realize that PPP is now a minor regional party and the DAWN readership is probably not representative of mainstream thought in Pakistan today. Thus game, set and match for Maulana Sheerani. It is indeed a proud day for him and he will be savoring a (not so) hard-earned victory.
.... 
The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) concluded its 191th meeting, here Tuesday with the ruling that the laws related to minimum age of marriage were un-Islamic and that children of any age could get married if they attain puberty.

At the conclusion of two day meeting, Chairman CII Maulana Muhammad Khan Sheerani noted that the laws related to marriage too were unfair and there cannot be any age of marriage.  

However, he explained that there were two segments of marriage – nikah and ruksati, while nikah could be performed at any age.“Even the minors can have nikah but that has to be executed by the guardians,” chairman CII said adding, “But ruksti could be executed only after attaining the age of puberty.”

He said that the age of puberty varies from individuals to individuals and it was the responsibility of guardians to have ruksati soon the child attains the age of puberty. “The laws limiting the age for both the segments of marriage are unIslamic and needed to be rectified,” he added.

The officials were asked if the international conventions signed by Pakistan related to child marriage would be violated after this ruling by CII. Responding to the query the official said that the international conventions cannot be in contradiction to the constitution of the country or Islam and if they were, those particular clauses would not apply on Pakistan.

The CII had on earlier day suggested the government to change Muslim marriage laws as it required Muslim male to seek permission from the previous wife or wives for another marriage.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) human rights cell has expressed concern over the CII rulings. “Why is Council concerned with men’s four marriages and why have they done nothing to ensure that women get their property as enshrined in Islamic Law? Or why have they failed to stop practices such as vani, swara and karo kari? Or stop rape, and acid crimes against women?” asked Dr Nafisa Shah, coordinator PPP’s human rights cell.  

“Unfortunately Islam has been misinterpreted over a period of time by a mindset and a particular school of thought. Islam and modernism are compatible provided progressive scholars interpret the religion,” she added. The PPP human rights cell has called upon the government to include progressive Islamic scholars in the council so that women’s rights and the rights of all are protected.

regards