What is in the Womens Rights Bill

Posted on November 24, 2006
Filed Under >Umera Ali, Law & Justice, Religion, Women
Total Views: 54870

Guest Post by Umera Ali

Women Protection Bill, 2006 (“WPB”) has finally passed, in an overwhelming majority vote, by the Pakistani Senate. MMA in a last attempt to make WPB ineffective suggested 17 amendments, which were all rejected by the Senators. Having already been cleared by the National Assembly, the only thing left, procedurally, for the bill to become law of the land is Presidential consent.

WPB is the first step towards changing the draconian rape and adultery laws, which were implemented by the President Zia-ul-Haq. The present Musharraf government has fought very hard to get these changes through and to make these amendments possible. This is not to suggest that these amendments are in anyway adequate or enough, however, they are the first step. WPB has been severely compromised by the pressure from MMA. They were some changes suggested by them, which have been incorporated in the Bil (text of changes available courtesy of eteraz.org). However, the entire text of the Bill still remains unavailable; therefore, it is very difficult to comment on the same with any certainty.

Ali Eteraz does offer some analysis on WPB and the issues with the same:

“Rape is now tried under the secular penal code, and the Sharia courts do not have jurisdiction over rape/rape-allegations.

This means that rape does not have to be proven by four witnesses (it can now be proven by circumstantial, even DNA evidence). The part on rape is the biggest victory of this bill. Rape has been totally separated from adultery or any other crimes of chastity.

Non-rape extra-and-pre-marital sex acts are still tried by the Sharia courts.
However, “lewdness” (a new offense which includes both adultery and pre-marital sex) will be tried by the secular courts.

Yes, that means that two different court systems will have power over adultery and pre-marital sex: adultery/fornication matrix for Shariah courts; lewdness matrix for secular courts.

Those two courts systems will fight over it, and I have no idea how they determine who gets to try them. That is actually the million dollar question. My lawyer friend suggests that it is a judge which determines the jurisdiction. Question is: is that a Sharia judge or a secular judge?�

The analysis further suggests that the matter would fall within the jurisdiction of Shariah court because of the Article 203D and 203DD (which describes the power of Shariah Court). This may not be necessarily true, and these questions of procedural and interpretation of law would only become clear with the passage of time and development of case law under the amended law.

However, it needs to be noted that most of the analysis is based on hearsay and is based on assertions and presumptions from other sources. Nonetheless, the analysis offered does deal with some of the legal and constitutional issues that may/will arise in respect of WPB. The limited text, which is available on Eteraz and the commentary in the newspapers all suggests that even at its best WPB, is extremely vague and there are various ambiguities and loopholes in the same. Any detailed and concrete analysis of legal issues would have to wait until the availability of the draft legislation.

Nevertheless, it would not be wrong to say that the Presidential consent would not be the end of WPB both politically and legally. Politically there is the dilemma of threat by MMA of resigning from the National Assembly. Legally there are issues of constitutional law as well as procedural law attached with this legislation. In context of legal issues, this matter will only be conclusively decided either by the decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan or by further amendments to the legislation.

Umera Ali is a lawyer and blogs at Pointless Conundrum.

81 responses to “What is in the Womens Rights Bill”

  1. Abu Nasih says:

    I request u all to plz read islam properly. v r all going to die . this world gonna last for a very short time. Y v say that islam didnt give rights to the women which they deserve ? so r v doubting(nao zo BILLAH) The devine laws or r v more learned then HIM . plz ask ur self. as for as the punishments r concerned , if they r properly followed , who will dare to do any wrong thing. C for ur self in saudi arabia, can any one dare to do any wrong thing reason is the islamic punishments.
    I ernestly request u to read tafsir of quran and hadees u will INSHA ALLAH get the answer. lets hope that v shall all b Guided

  2. [quote post=”437″]Their arguments are not about what is good for women but about defending old hudood laws only.[/quote]

    It shows that you didn’t read a single thing here or on Internet sources, neither you made an attempt to read text of both laws. I feel sorry.

  3. Bushra says:

    I have been very confused about this bill and this issue and not sure who to believe. I have been reading lots on web and google brought me to this website. I like the discussion and passion here  and the many links that are provided in comments and essays. That was useful. I have been reading and reading and my feeling now is that the new law is a good thing and it is about the real welfare of women. I looked also at many websites provided here like in this last comment on hudood ordinance and feel that people defending the hudood ordinanace are not really concerned about welfare of women they are more interested in defending what they see as religion in politics and dont care for women or our well being. Their arguments are not about what is good for women but about defending old hudood laws only.

  4. kashif siddiqui says:

    ” In PAKISTAN the majority is muslim but this new bill has given some rights to the women that ISLAM do not allow.”

    The last sentence of that post is highly disappointing. Any thing above than the Quran & Sunna is not acceptable. Islam is the divine religion what its prohibits, it is in our benefit & what it allows, it’s also in our benefit. We don’t need those rights which Islam doesn’t allow.

    Please visit the following website for full information

  5. Humayun says:

    This bill is an important first step. It is not enough and eventual goal should be total repeal of Zia’s laws. But as first step we should appreciate it, even if done for political gain. At least it is a start

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