News Analysis |
In the latest development, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) said on Friday that a “better way” to tackle the prevalent practice of child marriages is to start an awareness campaign among the masses instead of passing legislation.
A CII spokesperson reportedly said that the council in its 212th meeting had discussed the matter in detail and had arrived at the conclusion that “legislation against child marriage and setting an age limit will lead to many complications”.
The meeting on the matter comes days after the Senate passed the Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill, 2018 — which proposes that the minimum age for marriage be set at 18 — amid noisy opposition from religious parties and some members of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). Some of the opposing senators had argued that the bill be sent to CII before being tabled in the house.
A similar bill that was tabled in the National Assembly by a PTI lawmaker a day after the Senate passed the anti-child marriage bill faced strong opposition from members of the ruling party itself.
Netizens React to CII Recommendations
On the same day, a 40-year-old man in Sindh married a 10-year-old girl that irked the public and a campaign on social media led to the arrest of the man, identified as Mohammad Somar.
Citizens on Twitter expressed their displeasure and slammed the CII for its inability to take a clear stand against child marriage. A social media user wrote: “Truly saddened to be living in a country where CII refuses to endorse Bill against child marriage. Young girls married off to men three times their age in this day and age. Plain abuse of children.”
Truly saddened to be living in a country where CII refuses to endorse Bill against child marriage. Young girls married off to men three times their age in this day and age. Plain abuse of children.
— Mariana Baabar (@MarianaBaabar) May 4, 2019
Salman Sufi also tweeted that “While discouraging #ChildMarriage , CII falls short of endorsing legislation to prevent it. A small step if taken in support of legislation would pave a long way towards ending this menace that puts so many children in harms way for life. Hope they reconsider. #CII”
While discouraging #ChildMarriage , CII falls short of endorsing legislation to prevent it. A small step if taken in support of legislation would pave a long way towards ending this menace that puts so many children in harms way for life. Hope they reconsider. #CII pic.twitter.com/R45z4TBPZE
— Salman Sufi (Stay At Home to Stay Safe) (@SalmanSufi7) May 3, 2019
Bushara Gohar, a former member of the Parliament, also said that “#CII should be disbanded. In the presence of the Parliament it is irrelevant & a drain on the exchequer.”
— Bushra Gohar (@BushraGohar) May 4, 2019
Read more: Child marriage is still legal in the US
CII fails to Consider socio-Political Realities
The CII’s proposal allowing a man to ‘lightly beat’ his wife– if she defies the husband among a number of other reasons– back in 2016 had attracted severe criticism. The proposal came as part of CII’s own women protection bill, after it rejected Punjab province’s controversial Protection of Women against Violence Act, branding it un-Islamic.
Analysts believe that the CII has failed to perform its actual role of interpreting Islam while keeping into consideration the existing socio-political realities. In an article, Zoya Kaleem notes that “the CII could not perform its due functions; on the contrary it has caused social confusion. As most of the time instead of modernizing Islam it pushed the religion back to the medieval ages.
It creates confusion for the lay media and public. Any development regarding human rights and especially women empowerment is simply rejected and declared un-Islamic, as a consequence less-educated and overly-emotional segments from Pakistani society get frustrated between religious orthodoxy and modern liberalism. Our CII failed to find out any middle way to make Islam and modern democracy compatible.”