WOMENWISE| Ph Bangsamoro Basic Law can be a model legislation for ASEAN

I AGREE that the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is a great opportunity to pursue “social justice and human development” in Mindanao.
The lower house of Congress is done with its public hearings and now poised to go into executive sessions for further deliberations. I know there are those who prefer a non secular approach to laws and policies in the light of the real problems that have spawned in many parts of the world in relation to Political Islam or Islamism. For example, there is the current debate in Malaysia on marital rape. The debate is now whether Islam recognizes marital rape. Marital rape is not yet a penal offense in Malaysia (unlike in our country) but a spouse can be penalized for forcing his wife to have sex by threat or by harming her. The crime is the threat or harm but not the rape. Yet, a Muslim cleric says otherwise. Thankfully, there is a vibrant human rights movement in Malaysia and Muslim groups who believe in women’s bodily autonomy.

After the revolutions in the North African countries of Tunisia, and Egypt and recent developments in Lebanon, Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia, there is now a sense among human rights groups that in these countries, religious fundamentalisms are not really that articulated. The historic events in Tunisia and Egypt are for now just basically about a break from an old regime. We have seen how some of these revolutions did not really address the plight of women. In Tunisia, a model of sorts in secularism, the feminists were always afraid that they might lose the gains of the past century. Tunisia is one of two countries in the Muslim world that has legally not allowed polygamy. There is an apprehension that the feminist movements are narrowly seen as anti- religious fundamentalism and this is a limited reading because in reality women’s discourses are about everything oppressive. Still, let us be grateful that recent revolutions in these countries have brought about a sense of citizenship and a democratic interest in politics.

The fear of Political Islam relates to the establishment of a Caliphate. Feminist Amina Wadud writes and I quote, “The worst manifestation of Islam in our time is the so-called Islamic State, but it might be our salvation. This is a powerful wake-up call: just because people say they are doing something in the name of Islam does not mean you have to agree with them. And as soon as you have the freedom not to agree with an interpretation of Islam, then the question of interpretation comes up and that’s my life right there – talking about how Islam has always been filtered through the interpretation of people who have the power.” Yes, I agree that laws are traditionally made by people in power.

As we are legislating our own Bangsamoro Basic Law, there are unfounded apprehensions about the kind of legislations that will be churned out by the Bangsamoro parliament given that the writing of both criminal and commercial law is already mandated in the ARMM law and in the BBL. There is fear that Hudud law (penal law) under Sharia, much like recent events in Kelantan of introducing harsh and cruel law punishments, will be legislated. I have no fear. Let us trust our leaders and our institutions.Actually, all Sharia provisions in the BBL, except for the administrative parts,i.e. new court, academy, and qualification of judges, etc., are already found in the current ARMM Organic Act (RA 9054). As to hudud/penal law, I found this good provision about “prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment” in the current ARMM law which is worth repeating in the BBL

The Muslims constitute the majority population in South East Asia or among ASEAN countries. And I believe that the Philippine Bangsamoro Basic Law can be a model legislation for ASEAN because we have a gender equality provision and enough human rights safeguards in our Constitution. And so, we can really continue to incorporate the gains of the women’s movement alongside the development of a Bangsamoro community in the Philippines.

Islam is a complete code of life and also about justice & equality.

Isabelita Solamo(Women Write – http://isabelitasolamo.blogspot.com)

Posted in Opinion