A few weeks ago, just prior to the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology met in Islamabad. The agenda for the meeting was packed, and 19 of the Council’s 20 members were present. The main issue for debate was the question of whether the Protection of Women Against Violence Act of 2015, passed by the Punjab Assembly earlier in the year, could be deemed Islamic. The only member not present was the Council’s sole female member, Dr. Sameeha Raheel Qazi.
When the meeting was over, the Council, under the leadership of its chairman, Maulana Sheerani, issued a press release declaring that a man, under certain circumstances, was permitted to ”lightly beat his wife.” These circumstances include instances of “wifely disobedience”: the Council enumerated the refusal of marital sex, interactions with male strangers, and even refusing to take baths of purity following intercourse or menstruation.
This wife beating declaration was part of a 163-page document that the Council presented as the Islamically permissible version of the Protection of Women Against Violence Act 2015. It deemed the existing bill—already passed by the Assembly in February, which requires increased prosecution of domestic violence offenses (already crimes under Pakistani law) and tougher sentences on assailants—contrary to the principles of Islam.