Friday, September 15, 2006

Pakistan's government has put a controversial women's rights bill on hold, throwing into turmoil efforts to reform hardline Islamic laws on rape

Barbara Plett:

Secular parties are furious after the draft law was amended to appease Pakistan's ultra-conservative Islamic parties.

Now the authorities are scrambling to reach a broader consensus before trying for a fourth time to present the bill in parliament.

The imbroglio has been branded by human rights activists as a disaster for Pakistani women.

It is also seen as further evidence that the government of President Gen Pervez Musharraf remains dependent on the Islamists, despite his claims of promoting an Islam of "enlightened moderation".

In Pakistan, rape is dealt with under Islamic laws known as the Hudood Ordinances. These criminalise all sex outside marriage.

So, under Hudood, if a rape victim fails to present four male witnesses to the crime, she herself could face punishment.

This has made it almost impossible to prosecute rape cases.

According to the country's independent Human Rights Commission, a woman is raped every two hours and gang-raped every eight hours in Pakistan.

These figures are probably an under-estimation as many rapes are not reported.

Islamists claim victory on rape laws


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