Changing Rape Laws in Pakistan

Posted on September 10, 2006
Filed Under >Ali Eateraz, Law & Justice, Religion, Women
67 Comments
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Guest Post by Ali Eteraz

The women’s protection bill of Pakistan — which will dramatically alter the rape laws of Pakistan — has a chance of being passed this coming Monday. The bill is an attempt to reform the draconian rape laws of Pakistan from 1979, passed by then dictator Zia ul Haq under the auspices of the religious establishment (part of the hudood ordinance).

The laws require that for a woman to make an allegation of rape she must produce four male witnesses. If she is unable to put forth the witnesses she herself is liable for adultery (and can be imprisoned or put to death for adultery). Absurd. In one case, a blind girl, Safia Bibi, who had been raped was convicted on charges of adultery because she could not identify her attacker.

This has been a contentious issue in Pakistan (see my commentary on it here). I have been in correspondence with individuals who are involved in the Women’s Protection Bill. While on one hand they have had to contend with the religious establishment, they have also ran into opposition by some liberal groups, and international NGO’s like Human Rights Watch, who find the proposed amendments inadequate.

What the reformists are trying to explain, however, is that while total repeal of the bill would be wonderful, politics is a process, and that means taking whatever progress that can be gotten right now. While concerns about the fact that the bill is being pushed through by a dictator (Musharraf) are valid, they are unfair in light of the tremendous abuses that will be alleviated if this bill is passed. In the short term, the reformists — and those backing the bill — need our support. Later, more progress can be made.

In an op-ed that appeared in The Daily Times today (10 September, 2006) Feisal Naqvi points out:

…the response from women’s groups to the proposed Women’s Protection Act has either been hostile or at best, tepid. Instead of supporting the bill, women’s groups have only reiterated their demand for the complete repeal of the Hudood Ordinance. What these groups forget is that politics is the art of ‘the possible’. The Women’s Protection Act may not be perfect but it will certainly bring relief to millions of oppressed women. In any event, the fight for repeal can always be carried on later.

The reformists need to be recognized for the good they have achieved despite the enormous difficulties, and not to be criticized for what they have failed to achieve. The full article by Feisal Naqvi in The Daily Times is worth a read because it clearly explains what the issues are and how they are being dealt with in the new law. It concludes:

If all goes according to the government’s plan, much of what is undesirable in the Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979 (to give the law its full name) will be quietly gutted through the proposed Protection of Women’s Act… The proposed law marks the absolute limit of what is possible in terms of today’s political climate. More importantly, the Protection of Women’s Act is not a whitewash job: instead, it addresses and fixes the major sources of women’s oppression under the Hudood Ordinance.

The best thing to do right now is to support the efforts of the reformists and later carry their torch further. It would be a terrible tragedy if after decades of efforts the amendments were tabled due to inadequate support by progressives. Well intentioned people around the world need to express their support. (For more see: ‘The Right To Own Women’ and Women’s Protection Bill Cheat Sheet). [Also see earlier ATP Poll on related issue].

Ali Eteraz describes himself as “a continental philosopher, essayist, novelist, student of Islamic arts, philosophy, jurisprudence and a practitioner of global nomadism” and blogs under this pseudonym at Eteraz, where you will find much on this and related subjects.

67 responses to “Changing Rape Laws in Pakistan”

  1. Watan Aziz says:

    Outrageous.

    Incomprehensible.

    Defies common sense.

    Defines decency.

    Upends common laws.

    Mocks Qur’an.

    I have long maintained that Pakistan has been ill served by the self-proclaimed religious bigots and equally by the self-proclaimed secular bigots. Neither know the ideals nor understand the principles of what they claim to be. And I have said this again and again; here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. (Well, I do not have links, but sure sounds important.)

    So, here, I offer the Exhibit 1 of my claims.

    The Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance 1979 (Ordinance No. VII of 1979) was put into place by evil usurper and his co-conspirator Brohi. (Let there be a record for those who aspire to conspire, you will be rebuked and rebuked often. In the Pakistani tradition, the usurper attempts to legalize his role by a prominent legal co-conspirator. So, it is important to rebuke all those who mock the people and mock the law.)

    And the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006 by usurper enlightened.

    And what is common between both of these laws you ask?

    The fact that a former spouse (usually a man) can file a case under zina laws is outrageous, incomprehensible, defies common sense, defines decency, upends common laws and not the least, mocks Qur’an.

    Both sides offer this flow of events: that a verbal “talaq” was made. The former spouse (female) moves away, and after “idat”, marries another man. Now comes the former husband, lays claim on his alleged “wife”, files case under zina laws and the rest you can summarize.

    One more time, the fact that a former spouse (usually a man) can file a case under zina laws is outrageous, incomprehensible, defies common sense, defines decency, upends common laws and not the least, mocks Qur’an.

    The fact that The Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939 is still the law of the land, the fact that the West Pakistan Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1962 is also the law of the land. And the fact that both are broken. The fact that family courts do not have jurisdiction over a matter brought up by a former and jilted husband who can drag his former wife in a court under zina laws nuts. Nuts. Simply nuts!

    The former husband’s claims cannot be supported by any convention of common laws or Qur’anic Guidance.

    And lo, both, both! The evil usurper, claiming divine knowledge of Qur’an and the enlightened usurper claiming whatever, join at hips to deny a woman equity and justice.

    Neither know the ideals nor understand the principles of what they claim to espouse.

    And all those folks from both camps who have supported either of the positions, should find “chooloo bhar pani” and do the needful.

    And this my dear friends, is the twin tragedy Pakistanis face.

    Pakistanis are stuck on a bad page in a bad story. It will require collective effort to change the page, to change the story. It will require all of us to repeat again and again the ills of the system. Because by themselves, they appear to be deaf, dumb and blind.

    Pakistanis are good, decent, honorable, hard working people.

    I do have the audacity of hope, with fierce urgency of now.

  2. Watan Aziz says:

    ….taking whatever progress that can be gotten right now…..Later, more progress can be made. ….The best thing to do right now is to support the efforts of the reformists and later carry their torch further….

    It is this attitude that has gotten us into this mess where we are.

    At each turn of the hand, we were told to compromise. Compromise the rights, the liberties, the ideals of Jinnah, the faith, the reason, justice, equity.

    And then after each compromise, all that is left behind is a system worse than before.

    This law has further flaunted the concept of justice and of that of fairness. In my opinion, the expanded definitions are bigger mess.

    And only in Pakistan, instead of fixing the bad laws related to marriage and divorce, we are being told that zina laws needs to be fixed such that a previously divorced woman cannot be accused of zinna. Amazing! This defies common sense. The net result of this “compromise”; marriage laws remain broken and zinna laws remain unjust.

    The entire law is a terrible. This whole thing should be gutted. The entire slate of laws enacted under the evil usurper and his cohort and co-conspirator Brohi should expunged from the books and replaced with laws that make sense.

    Is there any good thing in this law?

    I find only one.

    12A (5A) No case to be converted, lodged or registered under certain provisions:- No complaint of zina under section 5 read with section 203A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1989 and no case where an allegation of rape is made shall at any stagy be converted into a complaint of fornication under section 496A of the Pakistan Penal Code (Act XLV of 1860) and no complaint of fornication shall at any stage be converted into a complaint of zina under section 5 of the Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance 1979 (Ordinance No. VII of 1979) or an offence of similar nature under any other law for the time being in force.

    Essentially, the complaint of one nature cannot be upended and used against the accuser as the complaint of another type. But then, is that not always the case? How can the victim become perpetrator? Does that need a provision in the law?

    Pakistanis have a bad system of governance. They remain compromised on their rights and freedoms, equity and justice.

    And Pakistanis are good, decent, hard working and honest folks. The goodness of these good folks is yet to bear fruit.

  3. LUCKY ALI says:

    hi , every one i m here to tell you about that these kind of cases are know common in karachi and pakistan . so many peoples in pakistan they are professional criminal are trying to do this kind of things in their own country
    and as well as they are not good peoples , so if we want to stop these thing so we must work for humanity . it is may way of thikking i dont know what you think about this kind of topic but the truth is here , you better know about that and such a peoples do this kind of job must be prosetutued by federal law of (pakistani government) , so work together
    then we have got good results
    waheed_3259@hotmail.com
    luckyali_ali3259@yahoo.com
    you can contact me if you want

  4. […] Today is March 8 – International Women’s Day. Today we wish to celebrate women in the fullness of what it means to be a woman in Pakistan. To celebrate their achievements (also here, here, here and here). And to celebrate their struggles (also here, here, here and here). […]

  5. the question comes in mind that what is the definition of “authentic Quran”? Why a Muslim should consider quran authentic? Any evidences and logics behind it?

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