Thursday, September 07, 2006

Pakistan and Hudood Ordinances...


...a culture of oppression?

Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf supports amendments to the Hudood ordinances, yet religious parties in Pakistan's Parliament have torn up the bill, and sixty-eight parliamentary members from a coalition of six separate Islamic (religious) groups, have threatened to walk out, possibly forcing new elections.

The Hudood ordinances were adopted in 1979 by President General Zia ul-Haq. Under these ordinances, extramarital sex was criminalized. A woman's testimony became worth half that of a man's, and statutory rape laws were repealed so girls under fourteen could be charged with unlawful sex if they had reached puberty. The Hudood ordinances also made rape all but unpunishable. For a woman to prove a rape charge, the attacker must confess or four Muslim males must testify to witnessing penetration. Technically, a Muslim male can, in fact, rape a woman in front of Parsi, Hindu, and Christian males and females and be free from prosecution since no Muslim males were present to witness the crime.

These laws have, not surprisingly, led to significant abuse against Pakistani women who have no redress. For instance, Shamim, a young mother of two, was kidnapped and raped by three men, but when she lodged a complaint against them, she herself was arrested and raped repeatedly by police during her stay in jail.

When the police are rapists, women in Pakistan have no chance of justice in this world at all as Shahida Parveen discovered after two policemen forced their way into her home and raped her. Although a medical exam confirmed her testimony, the police refused to press charges against the rapists.

In fact, police frequently charge rape victims with extramarital sex charges which are punishable by death instead of following up on victims' allegations. Women can then spend months in jail where they are repeatedly sexually abused by police, according to human rights groups. Even if they are eventually freed, they face possible "honor" killings from male relatives. There were, for example, 1600 "honor" killings in Pakistan in 1998.

Also, political rivals have used rape of their opponents' female relatives as weapons against them. One poor soul whose husband was in jail was kidnapped on her way home from his hearing by police, taken to the police station, and gang raped by them. Another woman, Veena Hyat, a forty year old daughter of a prominent politician, was gang raped in her home for five hours. Although her father bravely came forward to seek justice, a "judicial investigation concluded insufficient evidence to convict the alleged perpetrators." (

The proposed changes to the Hudood ordinances include a relaxation of the requirement for witnesses to the crime, allowance of indirect and circumstantial evidence, and a downgrading of extramarital sex to a bailable offence so women can be bailed out instead of sitting in jail for months. Some human rights groups, however, say these changes are not enough and that the Hudood ordinances should be repealed not amended. The amendment fails to acknowledge marital rape or to repeal the death penalty for extramarital sexual relations, for example.

So what has the religious parties in Pakistan's Parliament up in arms? As they put it, these amendments will promote "vulgarity and obscenity in society". (International Herald Tribune)

...or maybe those men have enjoyed subjugating women and knowing they could violate a woman without facing any possible punishment.


South Asian Voice

Islam Online

Reuters AlertNet

International Herald Tribune

USA Today


At 9/07/2006 10:02 PM, Anonymous Andy said...

Truly unbelievable, and so many countries are like this. I wonder if it was always so.


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