In a move heralded as a step forward for women’s rights in Pakistan, the lower house of parliament has approved a bill amending Islamic laws on rape. But human rights groups say the amendments do not go far enough. They have called for the laws, known as the Hudood Ordinance and introduced by military ruler President Zia-ul-Haq in 1979, to be scapped altogether.
If the upper house and President approve the bill, civil courts will have jurisdiction to try rape cases. Until now, they were heard in Islamic courts and victims needed four male witnesses to the crime. If they failed to prove their case, they faced prosecution for adultery. Under the bill, convictions could be made with forensic and circumstantial evidence alone.
Religious parties boycotted the vote, however, arguing the change would encourage free sex. According to Pakistan’s Human Rights’ Commission, a woman is raped every two hours in the country and Islamic laws make it difficult to gain a conviction.
They hope with the amendments, the situation will change.