The research project on Women,
Religion and Social Change in Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka currently being
undertaken by ICES provides a unique opportunity to explore the cross-cultural
dimensions of continuing tradition and the process of change as these relate to
women and in this the role of religion. A grey area of uncertainty, prejudice,
and very little research, the role of religion in determining the possible for
individual actors, particularly women, has rarely received the attention it
The legal status of the Muslim women (1) in Bangladesh is defined by the principles
of Sharia through Muslim Personal Law along with the general law which is
non-religious and secular in its character. The Muslim personal law covers the
field of marriage, divorce, maintenance, guardianship of children and
inheritance whereas the general law covers the rights under the Constitution,
penal codes, the civil and criminal procedure codes, evidence act etc.
One of the crucial issues affecting women in South Asia
today has been the growth of state sponsored religious fundamentalism. This is
occurring in the context of increasing evidence of violence against women -
dowry murders, sexual harassment, rape often by the police and army, and the
throwing of acid on women in the streets. (1) As a result of campaigns and
agitations by women's movements, these incidents have been highlighted and the
governments have passed some preventive laws, albeit with many loopholes and
On 7th June 1988, the members of
the controversially elected parliament of Bangladesh passed the Constitution
(8th Amendment) Bill imposing Islam as the state religion of the country which
broke away from another religious-based country - Pakistan - only 17 years ago.
The four pillars of the Constitution of Bangladesh originally were nationalism,
democracy, secularism and socialism. Secularism and socialism were dropped from
the Constitution in 1977 to be replaced by ‘total faith in Allah’ and ‘social
The Muslim's Women's Research and Action Front considers the appointment of a
committee to examine Muslim Personal Law in the light of reform as a positive
step in the socio-legal and cultural upliftment of the community.
MWRAF as a group of committed and concerned Muslim women wishes to suggest a basis
for reforms, though we would like to reiterate the fact that our framework is
within the Qur'an and Sharia and the proposed changes would in effect be
implementation of not only the letter of the law but also the spirit of the law-
in other words the essence of the Qur'an
legal code of a nation ordinarily reflects, or should reflect, the values of the
society that form that nation. It depicts the influence of its past history and
its future aspirations or, at least, the aspirations of those in control. The
structure, mode, content and intent of the code indicate the ethical concepts
peculiar to that nation. All penal codes have ostensibly the same aims - to
punish the offender, to prevent crime and to preserve the peace.
Women's Action Forum (WAF), Lahore expresses grave concern at the sentence of stoning to death of Zafran Bibi by the Sessions Judge Kohat, Mr. Anwar Ali. Zafran Bibi was sentenced on the basis of her statement before the court that she became pregnant and gave birth as the result of being raped by her husband's brother while the former was in jail. The male accused was acquitted.
Although friends in Pakistan clearly stated they wish to pursue this case by prioritising local pressure and working through the Pakistani legal system, local groups have however requested that international friends remain ready to launch an alert for action should the need arise. Pakistani women’s, human rights and lawyers’ groups have mobilised around the case. At this point they are prioritising local pressure and working through the Pakistani legal system as their strategy.