Islamabad, Pakistan (TFC) – An archaic and non-binding advisory council of the Pakistani government released a finding purporting to be based on an interpretation of Islamic teachings. It stated that men should be allowed to “lightly” beat their wives in an example “women’s protection bill”. Unsurprisingly, the men and women of Pakistan were more than a little upset by the advice. Muslims and non-Muslims alike took to Twitter to express their disapproval with the council.
The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) was created in 1962, and is a 20-member advisory body whose advice is most often ignored by the government. The reality of the situation in Pakistan is very different from what would be implied by the council. In recent years, the Parliament has passed laws concerning domestic violence, honor killings, sexual harassment, and acid attacks. To be completely fair, CII did concede that honor killings and acid attack were not in alignment with Islamic teachings. It also considers the possibility of women becoming judges. It should be completely understood the CII is an archaic body which wields no actual power.
More importantly, the response from the average citizen shows the irrelevancy of the CII. Some samples from #TryBeatingMeLightly:
Instead of legitimizing wife-beating, the advice from the council has led to widespread calls to abolish the CII. Twitter users also lashed out at the media for pretending the council has any power. Earlier this year, the Punjab Assembly, which actually has power, passed the Protection of Women Against Violence Bill, which established shelters, criminalized domestic violence, sexual violence, emotional abuse, and stalking. It created a toll-free number that can summon officers of a newly-created Women’s Protection Committees. Those officers may enter the premises and recover women being held captive.
The complaint of this incident being propagandized by the West has merit. Take a look at the top entries under the Hashtag. Keep in mind this isn’t even a real bill.
This is typical of the western media’s treatment of the region. There is no “new bill”. There is certainly no “law”. Even in the title of the CII’s document, it’s a “model”. The CII’s advice and proposal are certainly dangerous to Pakistani women. It’s an example of exactly what the country has been breaking away from over the last few years. The women in this nation have become more and more empowered. They are fighting a battle for equality and they’re winning. This sort of propaganda tends to delegitimize their actions and struggle. Where was the support from the US outrage machine when these women began fighting for their lives? It wasn’t really covered because Pakistan has about 100 million English speakers. That’s a whole lot of clicks on website ads. When the fight was starting in this country, the Western media barely covered it. Doing so might have alienated Pakistani readers, so they waited until they determined the population was tired of an overtly violent patriarchy before coming out in support of women’s rights.
These outlets are attempting to appeal to American anti-Islamic angst while casting themselves as supporters of women’s rights. Had the outlets that propagandized this story gotten in the fight earlier, lives would have been saved. They chose to forsake meaningful coverage for the sake of ad revenue. The fact is simple: the US outrage machine only covers these sorts of fights when the attack is so gruesome it generates morbid ad revenue; or when it can be used to fuel anti-Islamic hatred. The new laws that were actually passed protecting women were for the most part drafted, proposed, passed, and implemented by Muslims. If the concern of these outlets was women’s rights, those actions would be worth trumpeting.
If these outlets want to actually help these women attain the rights they should have, ignore the old men on an advisory body with no real power. Cover the women claiming their rights. The heroes in this fight are the ones you’re not giving coverage to.