Earlier this year, it looked as though positive steps were being taken by the government in Pakistan when it passed a women’s protection law to make it easier for female victims of domestic abuse to come forward.
But last week, a group that advises the government, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), rejected the Punjab Assembly’s bill on the grounds it was “un-Islamic” and drafted a new 163-page bill that says although any violence that damages bones should be forbidden, a husband should be allowed to “lightly beat” his wife in order to discipline her.
Behaviour that warrants a “light” beating includes a wife wearing clothes of which her husband does not approve, speaking loudly enough to be heard by strangers and turning down sex without ‘Islamic’ justification for doing so, as well as not taking a bath “after intercourse or menstrual periods”.
Pakistani people have not taken to the bill without protest, and one in particular has launched a social media campaign against it: photographer Fahhad Rajper.
Rajper took to Facebook to respond to the bill, posting a photo gallery with captions from women explaining how they would react to being beaten “lightly”. He then encouraged women to post their responses, using the hashtag #TryBeatingMeLightly.
Writing in a post, Rajper says: “TryBeatingMeLightly is an initiative to empower women amongst us who work towards individual and collective betterment. It's an opportunity for those to voice their opinions who can't or don't. The women around me, at my home, in my friend circle and in the industry that I love – like yourself.
“This isn't for me, it's for all men who as much as get a faint thought of putting a woman down! More power to you.”
The draft bill, which has not yet been sent to Pakistan's lawmakers, also says female nurses shouldn't take care of male patients, a husband could forbid his wife from visiting men they're not related to, women should be banned from receptions held for visiting foreign dignitaries and shouldn't appear in advertising.
The BBC reports that Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah rejected the ideas, saying, “Islam does not allow any violence, whether against women or children,” while the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan recommended abolishing the CII, whose recommendations are not binding.
Activists were angered earlier this year when the CII blocked a law raising the marriageable age in Pakistan from 16 to 18 and called the potential change “blasphemous”. The group recommended that the marriageable age in Pakistan be lowered to 12 for boys and nine for girls “provided there are visible signs of puberty”.
A spokesperson told Al Jazeera at the time: “If those elements are not present, then 15 should be the legal age. It doesn't mean that a girl should be married off as soon as she turns nine [...] But the impression that the act should be punishable is not correct [...] From religious teachings, it is quite clear that if puberty is reached as early as nine, the girl can be married off.”
The group says the draft bill has not yet been sent to lawmakers for review.