Pakistan caves to conservatives on rape

Proposed amendments to Islamic rape laws are squashed in response to conservative pressure.

Published September 12, 2006 3:52PM (EDT)

Bad news from Islamabad yesterday, where Pakistan's ruling party has bowed to conservative pressure and decided not to amend Islamic rape laws, including one which states that a rape victim must produce four male witnesses to escape a possible charge of adultery.

The bill that would have amended the old rape laws, called Hudood Ordinances, would have taken rape cases out of the religious courts and into the penal system, a move that women's rights supporters favored. Earlier, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had promised that he would support moves to repeal the laws. But leaders of an alliance of religious parties threatened to withdraw from national and provincial Parliaments if the government passed the amendments, which the opposition argued contradicted the Quran. So on Monday the government said that rape would remain a crime tried by religious law, though it would also become a crime under the penal code.

A draft of a new amendment bill will be presented to Parliament for debate on Wednesday. Supporters of the original bill told reporters that they would wait until then to comment on the changed amendments.

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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