While women in many parts of the world have made advances in areas previously closed to them, the problem of violence against women remains pervasive. Unfortunately, this violence takes many forms and occurs across national, cultural, racial, and religious borders.
Islam condemns all forms of violence against women. The basic Islamic premise of equality between women and men cannot be achieved so long as violence against women persists.
In pre-Islamic Arabia violence against women began at birth in the form of female infanticide. Islam prohibited the practice of female infanticide. Not only did the Quran prohibit this practice, it also mocks those who view the birth of a girl child with contempt. (Quran 16:58-59).
Another common form of violence against women is that committed by husbands on their wives. Islam requires that husbands treat their wives with respect and it prohibits any form of physical or emotional abuse. The Quran requires that spouses treat each other with love and mercy. (Quran 30:21). Moreover, the Quran repeatedly warns against the use of injurious statements by a husband against his wife. (Quran 58:2-4).
Rape, unfortunately, remains a common form of violence against women. In addition, the woman is often blamed for being the victim of rape. Islam views rape as a violent crime against the victim, against society, and against God. The perpetrator has committed a crime and hence is morally and legally responsible. The victim is an unwilling partner in the sex act and thus bears neither blame nor stigma. To either ostracize or condemn the victim because she was compelled to engage in sexual intercourse is against the laws of Islam as the victim was an unwilling, and therefore, a blameless participant.
In addition to the violence that women are subjected to during times of peace, women are particularly vulnerable during times of war. Islam condemns violence against women no matter what the circumstances. War is no exception. Prophet Muhammad was strict in ensuring that noncombatants, primarily women and children, were not harmed during war time.
Female genital mutilation, another form of violence against women, has no basis in Islam. Rather, it is a cultural practice which must be eliminated through education and the empowerment of women.
Likewise, forced prostitution is another form of violence against women with no basis in Islam and which must be eradicated through the empowerment of women.
Islam’s mandate of equality between women and men necessitates that all forms of violence against women be eradicated, for so long as women suffer abuses, women cannot achieve their full potential as free and equal members of society.
Reprinted from the Muslim Women’s League website, www.mwlusa.org