An influential religious body that advises the Pakistani government on legal matters has declared a new women protection bill "un-Islamic." It is not the first time the council has passed a misogynistic verdict.
Last week, the lawmakers in Pakistan's eastern Punjab province passed a historic bill to prevent violence against women. The bill aims to establish hotlines and shelters for women to protect them from domestic, psychological and sexual violence.
While the bill has been praised by the Islamic country's rights groups and liberal sections, religious parties and organizations have denounced it by saying it conflicts with the Koran and the teachings of Muhammad, Islam's prophet.
Now, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), a powerful religious body that advises lawmakers on the compatibility of legislations with Islam, has also condemned the bill. The organization of clerics said Thursday that the new law was "un-Islamic" and should be taken back.
"The law is wrong," Muhammad Khan Sherani, the head of the council, told reporters in Islamabad.
Sherani said the CII studied the proposed law closely and came to the conclusion that the lawmakers had not taken the Islamic teachings about "family protection" into consideration.
"The summary of the law is, as we understand, that the Muslim families are encouraged to violate the sanctity of matrimonial relations. The law also facilitates women to leave their homes and become part of the workforce," Sherani said.
Earlier, Fazlur Rehman, the chief of the Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam party, said the law was in conflict with both Islamic teachings and the constitution of Pakistan.
"This law makes a man insecure," he told journalists. "This law is an attempt to make Pakistan a Western colony."
CII and misogyny
It is not the first time that the Council of Islamic Ideology has passed a controversial verdict that puts men and women on unequal footing.
In January, the CII blocked a bill proposing harsher penalties for marrying off girls as young as eight. The council also ruled in the past that DNA could not be used as evidence in rape cases, endorsing controversial "Hudood" laws that mandate a rape victim to get four male witnesses to testify in the court.
Rampant violence against women
The landmark bill defined violence to include "any offence committed against a woman including abetment of an offense, domestic violence, emotional, psychological and verbal abuse, economic abuse, stalking or cybercrime."
"The instances of violence against women have been on the increase primarily because the existing legal system does not effectively address the menace and violence" perpetrated by some people, the bill stated.
Rights activists, such as Zohra Yusuf of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), welcomed the step and added that such bills "are all much-needed measures that deserve praise, but it is important to remember that cosmetic and purely procedural changes have not had an impact in the past."
Violence against women, particularly domestic violence, is rampant in Pakistan. Rights group complain about state's inaction to protect women from "honor killings" and marital torture.
Police said Wednesday they were tracing a man from the Punjab province who had shot dead both his sisters in an apparent "honor killing." Five years ago, Mohammad Asif had murdered his mother, according to police, before being pardoned at the time by his family.