A French proverb translates to ‘He who loves well, punishes well.’ In the light of the recent ruling by the Federal Supreme Court of UAE, that deemed it a man’s “right to discipline his wife and children provided he does not leave physical marks”, one is bound to ponder if love has probably crossed the line. The court’s judgment came in a case which might sound paradoxical – a man who’d beaten his wife was held to have breached the law, but not because of the act per se, rather the severity of it. The court invoked the Quran talking about the man having the right to ‘discipline’ his wife. The larger question this raises is, why despite wide condemnation of domestic violence in the mainstream, it seems more prevalent than ever?
Aggressive religious practices like the Hindu caste system, Sati and the right to discipline one’s wife in Islam have stirred the masses many a time, but despite claiming to have expanded our horizons of thought and achieved exponential growth in almost all aspects of life, we fail to let go of certain practices.
“There is religious orthodoxy in Islam and religious superstitions in Hinduism both of which are detrimental for the country. Although Islam talks about equality for men and women, one might find a slight contradiction in the statement which talks about “mild beating”, even though it has been used very cautiously,” says Dr Miratun Nahar, who has addressed issues related to society, state, women and education on various television programmes.
Whatever the rule of law is held to be, it is certain that Prophet Muhammad did not want to see the wives beaten without cause and he wanted successful marriages. It is unfortunate that his message got distorted like in the game of Chinese whispers, where some uninitiated practitioners hardly understood the depths of the message and twisted it to their convenience. “In my opinion a husband has no right to punish his wife. A husband can only suggest his wife about right and wrong. Practically, he has no right to punish her. According to the Quran, a husband cannot punish his wife; he can refer the case to the court only,” says Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Islamic Scholar and President of CPS International. He adds, “A husband can show his resentment to his wife but he has no right to give her any kind of physical punishment. Presently, Muslims have adopted a wrong stand that an individual or group can punish on his own but it is wrong. This is against the spirit of Islam. You can not single out any crime. All crimes without any exception will be referred to the court.” This verdict by the UAE apex court shows the strong influence of Islamic law in the Emirates, which in fact is less conservative than Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, where women are forbidden from driving and travelling without male company. For overall development and growth of a society, it is necessary that human community and religion should adapt and evolve to make human life more meaningful and dignified.
Pseudo purists with pseudo values exaggerate and go overboard with their demarcation of right and wrong. On one hand, women are not allowed to interact with other men or show their faces, and on the other, there are highlighted facts like right to polygamy, the growing rate of promiscuous men and their keen interest in the oldest profession on the face of earth: prostitution. “It is a patriarchal society that we live in. And some men think they have the right to dominate women. Cases of domestic violence are aplenty in the rural as well as urban areas. The main reasons for such behaviour are frustration, extramarital affair and alcoholism. And the reasons why women don’t raise a voice are because they are financially dependent on their husbands and secondly, the societal pressures deter them. In very rare cases in the urban areas, where men and women both are independent, some women raise a voice against such brutality only because they are self reliant. Most cases are referred for counselling and there is an effort to save the marriage. But in absolutely severe cases where injury is serious, cases are referred to the police,” says Nupur Sanyal, Hon. General Secretary, Institute of Social Work.
Ironically some women are too timid to exercise their rights and the others suffer from clouded decision making. “A slap or two in a span of three to four years is normal. It is obvious that sometimes people are overworked and they need to vent out. But what would one do if someone gets abusive with your family or is just not ready to listen to what you have to say?” asks Divya (name changed), who gave herself the same reasoning and made the mistake of marrying a divorcee who turned out to be an abusive husband. Luckily, realisation struck soon, and she’s now safely out of reach of the wife-beater. Only in severe cases girls resort to drastic measures such as divorce or legal separation. “There was a case of a love marriage in which the husband threw his wife down from the third floor. And she has been bed ridden ever since. It was hard to believe that someone you love resorts to physically abusing you. In my own case, my husband hit my head against a wall several times and I had a wound which required seven stitches. Being a relationship expert, we have had cases of domestic violence from couples who have been in live-in relationships to those who have been married for the past 30 years or more.
Domestic violence exists in all societies irrespective of religion,” says Nisha Khanna, Relationship Expert at UTV Bindass “Emotional Atyachar 2”.
“Thank God we are in a country like India which is secular and so we have the liberty to voice our opinion. If you notice, the Quran has been misinterpreted by men, conveniently interpreted to their benefit but not for the opposite sex. It’s sad that men resort to such ruthless means and the only way to get out of this torture is to speak up,” says renowned social activist Nafisa Ali. Pearl Buck once said, “A good marriage is one which allows for change and growth in the individuals and in the way they express their love.” Indeed, if it is so, it’s not the time to point fingers at what prevails, but to make conscientious choices in life.
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