13 Nov 2010

Pakistan blasphemy laws were intended to prevent reform of Islamic laws and silence women's rights activists

Daily Times - Pakistan December 10, 2009

Violence in the Name of Religion and its Impact on Women

Need to analyse, review discriminatory laws stressed

Daily Times Staff Report

ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a seminar on Wednesday discussed the issues related to violence on women in the name of religion and stressed the need to analyse and review the laws and policies to give women due status.

They expressed these views at a seminar “Violence in the Name of Religion and its Impact on Women”, organised by National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) at a local hotel.
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Director IA Rehman in his address focused on the impact of violence on the rights of women and non-Muslims in Pakistani society. He said Pakistani women had never been granted their fair share since 1960.

“Even the laws that are supposed to stop discrimination against women have had little impact because the Hudood (which outlaws extra-marital sex and rape outside of a valid marriage), Qisas (which calls for equal punishment for the crime committed) and Diyat (compensation payable to a victim’s legal heirs) Ordinances have not been repealed or amended,” Rehman said.

He quoted Allama Iqbal’s 1930 Allahabad address, in which he said Islamic Fiqh was stagnant since 500 years. “Iqbal gave a number of lectures and compiled them under the title ‘Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’, because he wanted to reconstruct Islamic laws that violate women rights,” he said.
Rehman said in modern days, even enlightened people could not think about his/her rights, as their thoughts have been highjacked. “A nation, whose’ thoughts are shattered, faces the worst consequences. And violence in the name of religion could not be justified at any front,” he said.
The HRCP director said unfortunately liberty, freedom and authority had been granted to those who were violators of women rights.

Former information minister and PPP-P MNA Sherry Rehman said an active support of civil society and media was required for equal rights to women. Ms Rehman cautioned the civil society activists that they should not expect strong support, like Women Bill in the past, from parliamentarians for repealing blasphemy laws.

Council of Islamic Ideology Chairman Dr Khalid Masood advised the civil society to be realistic in their struggle and demand. He requested them to set such targets, which were achievable and should not take absolute position on sensitive issues.

Hina Jinali discussed the flaws and ambiguities in blasphemy laws. She said Zia’s Islamisation was opted to narrow down the status of women in Pakistan. “The real meaning of blasphemy laws under Zia rule was to stop negotiations regarding Islamic laws and it was imposed on people of Pakistan to perpetuate political rule. Consequently, every individual has to suffer,” Jilani said, adding, all blasphemy laws, ordinances and clauses made during Zia regime were against the tolerance and equality of men and women.

Anis Haroon in her concluding remarks said NCSW needed to look beyond women’s rights to education and health. “The intolerance, violence and unrest in society have badly affected the women. We need to work on all strategies once again and strengthen it by allying and lobbing with other likeminded groups, supporters in the parliament and media.

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