Pakistani women protest against ongoing violence in Karachi in this 2014 file photo. (Photo by AFP)
Women in Pakistan's Punjab province are relieved after lawmakers passed a law penalizing crimes against women, a move some Muslim clerics said contradicted the Islamic Sharia.
The legislative assembly in Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province, on Feb. 24 passed the "Protection of Women against Violence Bill 2015." Now, women can be protected against verbal abuse, domestic violence, emotional and economic abuse and stalking.
"Domestic violence is an issue with women of all faith in our country. We welcome the latest law," said Alice R. Garrick, the Church of Pakistan director of Raiwind Diocese's Women's Desk. Its impact however, will depend on access women have to courts, she added.
Garrick also urged Islamic clerics to think above "patriarchal dignity" and safeguard the rights of women.
A member of the Council of Islamic Ideology that advises the government regarding the compliance of state laws to Sharia has asked for a review of the bill.
Mufti Muhammad Naeem, a religious scholar, said in a statement that the bill was contrary to the teachings of the Quran and accused lawmakers of pushing the Islamic country toward secularism. He also said that the law suppresses men at the hands of women.
However, Sumera Saleem of the Aurat (woman) Foundation said the bill complements Islam, which guarantees women rights.
"The clerics should read more of the Quran for a better understanding," she told ucanews.com. "We are jubilant ... for the first time it provides a mechanism to register complaints and prevents domestic violence. After years of struggle, we finally have a law that actually protects families," she said.
The Aurat Foundation reported 7,010 cases of violence against women in Punjab province in 2014 and that there were 2,926 reported cases in the first half of 2015.