The National Women Development Policy (2008) and the Issue of Non-compliance with the Quran and Sunnah

Before parliamentary elections our major political parties frequently give a promise to the nation that “NO LAW INCONSISTENT WITH THE QURAN AND SUNNAH SHALL BE PASSED”. Later on too often laws are passed by the Parliament despite the allegation that the said law is inconsistent with the Quran and Sunnah. With very few exceptions the Government side generally propagates through the public media that the law is NOT repugnant to the Quran and Sunnah and in this course they utter certain words taught by the ideologically biased western orientalists who are notorious for citing fragmented verses of the Quran and Sunnah omitting the preceding and subsequent verses and thereby drawing a forceful and wrong conclusion just to misguide the readers who have no direct access to the sources of Islam. No serious initiative is taken by the Government to scrutinize the issue through the experts and as a consequence general people become confused. The same thing has happened in the case of The National Women Development Policy (NWDP) also. The present article aims at scrutinizing the Policy in the light of the Quran and Sunnah.

 

Man and woman jointly constitute “human being”. Each of them is equally important for the existence of this species on the surface of the earth. But unfortunately sound relationship between these two components of mankind is seldom found in human history. Most of the nations in the course of history were in extremely marginalized positions. Sometimes the woman has been reduced to the position of a maid, treated as other chattels, deprived of all rights of inheritance and ownership, regarded as an embodiment of sin and misfortune and refused all opportunities for developing and unfolding her personality. This was one extremism. On the other hand the same woman is raised to prominence in a manner that she is worshipped as a deity, her virginity is a matter of worshipping and she is given absolute freedom leading to a storm of immorality and licentiousness and rendering a plaything for carnal indulgence.

Islam gives us its own idea about the relationship between man and woman and prescribes rules of behaviour between them. Mankind is not obliged to accept those prescriptions rather they are at liberty to accept those prescriptions or simply reject them. But he who wants to be, or to remain, a Muslim  must have to accept the prescriptions given in the Quran and Sunnah in toto. It is the demand of simple logic that if you reject rules and regulations of an association you can not remain a member of that association. This fact is mentioned in the Quran: وما كان لمؤمن و لا مؤمنة اذا قضى الله امرا ان يكون لهم الخيرة من امرهم و من يعص الله و رسوله فقد ضل ضلالا مبينا (الاحزاب ۳٦)   A believing man or woman does not have any right to have an option in their affairs when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Rasool; and whosoever disobeys Allah and His Rasool has indeed strayed into a clearly wrong path. [2]

According to Islam both man and women are EQUAL in dignity, BUT their social functions, rights and responsibilities are in many respects DIFFERENT. [The Quran says  لهن مثل الذى عليهن بالمعروف و للرجال عليهن درجة (البقرة ٢٢٨) Women have rights similar to their duties in an equitable manner, although men have a degree high over them.[3]] In certain cases man gets certain rights to which woman is not entitled and vice versa. In other words the very idea of complete equalization of man and woman in all types of rights, duties and functions goes against established principles of Islam. On the other hand the basis of CEDAW ratified by Bangladesh is the notion: “…the full and complete development of a country, the welfare of the world and the cause of peace require the maximum participation of women on equal terms with men in all fields “.

Inequalities of man and woman in Islam:

Man is the guardian of woman

الرجال قوامون على النساء بما فضل الله بعضهم على بعض و بما انفقوا من اموالهم (النساء ٣٤)  Men are the managers of the affairs of women because Allah has made the one superior to the other and men spend of their wealth on women [4]

الرجل راع على اهله و هو مسؤل (البخارى) Man is the supervisor of his family and he will be asked about his supervision. [5]

Financial liability and working place:

Financial liability has been imposed upon man [و على المولود له رزقهن و كسوتهن بالمعروف (البقرة ٢٣٣ )  The reasonable cost of their maintenance and clothing shall be the responsibility of the child’s father[6]]  and a woman has been exempted from any sort of financial liability. Islam has exempted them from outdoor activities with a commandment of staying at homes.

Allah says  و قرن فى بيوتكن و لا تبرجن تبرج الجاهلية الاولى (الاحزاب ٣٣ )  Stay in your homes and do not go about displaying your beauty as women used to do in the days of ignorance. [7]

But if necessity arises she can go out of home duly complying with other laws of Islam.

Restrictions on travel: A woman is not given as freedom as is given to a man. No long travel is valid for a woman without a man whom she can not marry. But no such restriction is imposed upon a man.

Inheritance property: Male: female = 2: 1 (للذكر مثل حظ الانثيين)

Woman’s right to unilateral right to dower: Man has no such right

Burden of maintenance upon man: Woman does not have to bear this burden

Polygamy permitted but not polyandry

Muslim woman can not marry a Christian / Jew but a Muslim male can

Wearing hijab is binding upon a woman, not upon man

On the other hand the UDHR, CEDAW and other international instruments of human rights are purely based on materialistic philosophy of equality of man and woman and therefore in many points contradictory with divine revelations. Keeping this aspect into consideration the Government of Bangladesh, upon accession of CEDAW, made the following reservation:

“The Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh does not consider as binding upon itself the provisions of articles 2, 13 (a) and 16 (1) (c) and (f) as they conflict with Sharia law based on Holy Quran and Sunna.”

Articles of CEDAW Bangladesh had reservation for:

Article 2

States Parties condemn discrimination against women in all its forms, agree to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women and, to this end, undertake:

(a) To embody the principle of the equality of men and women in their national constitutions or other appropriate legislation if not yet incorporated therein and to ensure, through law and other appropriate means, the practical realization of this principle;

(b) To adopt appropriate legislative and other measures, including sanctions where appropriate, prohibiting all discrimination against women;

(c) To establish legal protection of the rights of women on an equal basis with men and to ensure through competent national tribunals and other public institutions the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination;

(d) To refrain from engaging in any act or practice of discrimination against women and to ensure that public authorities and institutions shall act in conformity with this obligation;

(e) To take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women by any person, organization or enterprise;

(f) To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women;

(g) To repeal all national penal provisions which constitute discrimination against women.

Article 13

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in other areas of economic and social life in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, the same rights, in particular:

(a) The right to family benefits;

(b) The right to bank loans, mortgages and other forms of financial credit;

(c) The right to participate in recreational activities, sports and all aspects of cultural life.

Article 16

1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women:

(a) The same right to enter into marriage;

(b) The same right freely to choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent;

(c) The same rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution;

(d) The same rights and responsibilities as parents, irrespective of their marital status, in matters relating to their children; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount;

(e) The same rights to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights;

(f) The same rights and responsibilities with regard to guardianship, wardship, trusteeship and adoption of children, or similar institutions where these concepts exist in national legislation; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount;

(g) The same personal rights as husband and wife, including the right to choose a family name, a profession and an occupation;

(h) The same rights for both spouses in respect of the ownership, acquisition, management, administration, enjoyment and disposition of property, whether free of charge or for a valuable consideration.

2. The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory.

 

Lifting Reservation by Bangladesh:

On 23 July 1997, the Government of Bangladesh notified the Secretary-General that it had decided to withdraw the reservation relating to articles 13 (a) and 16 (1) (c) and (f) made upon accession. [8]

But question arises as to if those provisions were anti-Islamic in 1984, what did make them Islamic / pro-Islamic in 1997 ?

The National Women Development Policy (NWDP) 2008

The National Women Development Policy (NWDP) 2008 is nothing but the reflection of CEDAW in our national level. CEDAW has been mentioned three times in the Policy (see paras 1.1, 1.2 and 3.2). Now just  go through the following provisions of the Policy and compare with the above mentioned principles of Islam:

. সমাজ ও রাষ্ট্রীয় প্রশাসনের সকলক্ষেত্রেই নারীর অংশগ্রহণ নিশ্চিত করার প্রক্রিয়ায় বিগত বছরগুলোতে নারীর রাজনৈতিক ক্ষমতায়নের বিষয়টি সরকার গুরুত্বের সাথে দেখেছে।

. জাতীয় নারী উন্নয়ন নীতির লক্ষ্য

উন্নয়নের মূলস্রোতধারার সকলস্তরে নারীকে সম্পৃক্ত করা ও তার সমঅধিকার প্রতিষ্ঠা করা জাতীয় নারী উন্নয়ন নীতির মূল লক্ষ্য। এছাড়াও জাতীয় নারী উন্নয়ন নীতির সুনির্দিষ্ট লক্ষ্য রয়েছে।

জাতীয় উন্নয়ন নীতির সুনির্দিষ্ট লক্ষ্যসমূহ

১.১ জাতীয় জীবনের সকলক্ষেত্রে নারী পুরুষের সমতা প্রতিষ্ঠা করা;

Though Islam does not impose absolute prohibition upon out door activities of woman, it always encourages women to concentrate on humanizing the next generations and specifically assigned them for that purpose because there is no substitute of MOTHER in humanizing the next generation. If the new generation is not humanized in homes the future world will be full of “human-faced animals” as is clearly visible in materialistic societies where women have been dragged into all fields of national level depriving the children from the constant love and affection of mothers. Just go through the following sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) and think whether this type of phrase  জাতীয় জীবনের সকলক্ষেত্রে নারী পুরুষের সমতা প্রতিষ্ঠা করা can go in line with the Islamic principles.

On the death of Persian Emperor her daughter was made the ruler. On hearing this the Prophet (PBUH) said    لن يفلح قوم ولوا امرهم امرئة  No nation shall succeed who make a woman their ruler. [9]

In another occasion  the Prophet (PBUH) said, “….. when your collective responsibility is vested upon women, the abdomen of the earth is better for you than its surface.” [10]

১.১০ রাজনীতি, প্রশাসন ও অন্যান্য কর্মক্ষেত্রে, আর্থ-সামাজিক কর্মকাণ্ড, শিক্ষা, সংস্কৃতি ও ক্রীড়া এবং পারিবারিকজীবনেরসর্বত্রনারীপুরুষেরসমানাধিকারপ্রতিষ্ঠা;

Here the Policy talks about sports of woman but does not make it clear whether that sport will be telecast or not. If it is not telecast rather it is arranged exclusively within female area then there can be no objection because then it will be treated as nothing but physical exercise. But the words “সর্বত্র নারী-পুরুষের সমানাধিকার প্রতিষ্ঠা” makes it a bit more complicated because the sports of men are generally telecast through the media. So equal rights in sports generally include the right to be publicised / telecast as well. If that is true, can there be any place of displaying women sports before all within the boundary of Islam which strictly prohibits intermingling of man and woman after certain age and command to lower their sights without marriage ?

قل للمؤمنين يغضوا من ابصارهم و يحفظوا فروجهم ذلك ازكى لهم ….و قل للمؤمنات يغضضن من ابصارهن و يحفظن فروجهن  (النور ٣٠_٣١)

“Enjoin the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their private parts , this is more righteous way for them”. [11]

Besides Islam has very specifically and unequivocally prescribed the rights and duties of the spouses (as have already been mentioned) in family life which are NOT EQUAL in all cases. Somewhere women get more rights and somewhere more rights are given to men. Equality has not been maintained in distribution of DUTIES as well. In spite of all these DIFFERENCES how can the phrase পারিবারিকজীবনেরসর্বত্রনারীপুরুষেরসমানাধিকারপ্রতিষ্ঠাbe applied without violating the principles of Islam?

৩.২ নারীর প্রতি সকল প্রকার বৈষম্য বিলোপ সনদ (সিডও) বাস্তবায়নেরজন্যপ্রয়োজনীয়পদক্ষেপগ্রহণকরা;

৮.৪ নাটক ও চলচ্চিত্রনির্মাণেনারীকেউৎসাহিতকরারলক্ষ্যেসরকারীঅনুদানেরব্যবস্থাকরা

.১৩ নারীর অর্থনৈতিক ক্ষমতায়ন

নারীর অর্থনৈতিক ক্ষমতায়নের লক্ষ্যে জরুরী বিষয়াদি যথা: স্বাস্থ্য, শিক্ষা, প্রশিক্ষণ, জীবনব্যাপী শিক্ষা, কারিগরি শিক্ষা, তথ্য, উপার্জনের সুযোগ, সম্পদ, ঋণ, প্রযুক্তি এবং বাজার ব্যবস্থাপনার মাধ্যমে অর্জিতস্থাবর/অস্থাবরসম্পত্তিরক্ষেত্রেনারীরসমানসুযোগএবংনিয়ন্ত্রণেরঅধিকারদেয়াএবংসেইলক্ষ্যেপ্রয়োজনীয়নতুনআইনপ্রণয়নকরা;

১১.২ বাংলাদেশদূতাবাসগুলোতেরাষ্ট্রদূতসহ বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের উপাচার্য, বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় মঞ্জুরী কমিশন, পরিকল্পনা কমিশন ও বিচার বিভাগের উচ্চপদে নারীনিয়োগেরউদ্যোগগ্রহণকরা;

১১.৩ জাতিসংঘের বিভিন্ন শাখা ও অঙ্গ সংগঠনে এবং অন্যান্য আন্তর্জাতিকসংগঠনেরাষ্ট্রীয়প্রতিনিধিবাপ্রার্থীহিসেবেনারীকেনিয়োগ/মনোনয়নদেয়া;


[1] JIAOR RAHMAN MUNSHI, a student of LL.M. @ the University of Dhaka [jiarht@gmail.com]

[2] Ahzab 36

[3] Baqara 228

[4] Nisa 34

[5] Bukhari

[6] Baqara 233

[7] Ahzab 33

[8] The complete text of the reservation is published in United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1379, p. 336. (available in the website of CEDAW)

[9] Bukhari

[10] Tirmiji

[11] Nuur 32-33

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