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Special tribute to women

Iqbal Ebrahim

UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

 

The soul of a woman is no different from the soul of a man. Men and women are two halves of the same soul. The Quran says: “O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it its mate and from them both have spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in Whom you claim (your rights) of one another, and towards the wombs (that bore you). Lo! Allah is watching over you". (4: 1). Thus it is evident that men and women come from a single soul therefore the soul of a woman is no different from the soul of a man.

 

 But because women have a more delicate, sensitive, and emotional nature than men, and maybe because of these great attributes some of us mistakenly relegate them to the status of the weaker sex. Women in our society are being abused so much that many have come to accept this abuse as normal. Islam considers the honour of women sacred and insists that they be treated with appropriate dignity and respect therefore women have a special place in the life of a Muslim – whether she is your mother, your wife, your sister, neighbour or just someone’s wife. "O mankind! Verily we have created you from a single (pair) of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other." (Quran 49:13)

 

This column through various articles has tried to raise awareness and cover the issue of the abuse and violence that women suffer at the hands of their male partners and other such criminals. There is not a day that goes by without a report of murder, beating, rape and other such crimes of violence committed against women. These heinous actions destroy the very foundations of society because women are the bedrock of any community.

 

Since the month of March has been declared as World International Women’s month, as a tribute I would like to dedicate this week’s column to all women. Is it not strange, nay, a sad reflection on society as a whole that we have to set aside a special day or a month to, ahem, ‘remind’ us to honour our women, instead of giving them their due love, respect, dignity, honour and gratitude throughout the year?

 

This reminds of the ‘Mother’s Day’ and the other such commemorations that seem to suggest that we should set aside one day in the year when we can pay due honour and homage to our mothers by buying them a card, a bunch of flowers, some gift, or giving them a big hug – this when we should be doing just that throughout our lives, throughout the year and not only on this one day in the year.

 

The Qur’an and the Hadith have many verses and practices that show how we should honour, treat, respect and conduct ourselves in our relations with women. Not only that, Islam recognises that, in the sight of Allah women are the spiritual and intellectual equals of men. In the Qur'an Allah frequently addresses both the man and the woman. In one passage Allah reveals: "For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women who are patient, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise – For them all has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward." (33:35) 

 

Since in the words of our Creator we are have all been created equal we need to ensure that we treat them with the dignity and respect that is due to them. We should also ensure that those menfolk who mistreat, abuse and disrespect and in some cases use violence against partners get the message that they need to change their ways so that women are afforded the dignity due to them. The cycle of violence against women has to be brought to an end.  

 

It is a well-known fact that in today’s society there are many homes in which violence tends to rule the roost. Women are treated with disrespect, beaten up and even murdered by their partners. Why do some people have to resort to this type of behaviour? Worse still is that in some homes this behaviour takes place in front of the children. What message are we giving to our children? Without a doubt this not only has a devastating effect on the children’s psyche and mental wellbeing but also on their outlook in life. They may grow up hating one or both of the parents; they may even grow up believing that this type of behaviour is ‘normal’ and carry it through to their adult lives wherein their future households will also suffer the same fate.   

 

Muslims are guided by the Quran to lead a life that shows due love, respect, dignity, honour and gratitude for not only your partner, but your mother, your relatives and all women in general.

 

"And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may live in tranquillity with them, and He had put love and mercy between you; Verily, in that are signs for people who reflect." (Quran 30:21)

 

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in some of his teachings said: ‘Women are the twin halves of men. Allah enjoins you to treat women well, for they are your mothers, wives, daughters and aunts’; ‘It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them’; ‘Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers’; ‘The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives’. And other Hadiths say ‘The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best and kindest to his wife’; ‘This world is nothing but temporary conveniences, and the greatest joy in this world is a righteous woman’. For the mother there is also special reverence; ‘Heaven lies at the feet of the mother’.

 

The Bible is also clear about the treatment of women and has verses that give guidance on how our women partners should be treated: “Likewise, ye husbands live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered”. 1 Peter 3:7. “Who can find virtuous women for her value is far above rubies?” Proverbs 31: 10. “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband” Proverbs 12: 4

 

To mothers and women everywhere, thank you for bringing us into this world, thank you for your patience and for being there for us in our childhood, raising and guiding us through our joys, sicknesses, disappointments, tears and happiness as we charted our courses to adulthood. We know that without fail there will always be a safe harbour during those stormy seas of life – in your arms and that there is nothing that a hug of a mother cannot cure.

 

It is about time that we give back that distinct honour back to our womenfolk who through the years of our upbringing were always there for us as a safe harbour in the stormy seas of life.   

To women everywhere – thank you for being our better halves.

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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