Friday, November 17, 2006

Pakistani Activists React to Change in Rape Laws (Hudood Laws)

The following is a statement from an organization that's done a lot of very interesting work over the last couple of years or so. A necessary reference point in the discussion. And even if you dismiss them as excitable expats, the Aurat Foundation and Sungi are not names to sneeze at, being very respected social voices from "on the ground" in Pakistan--the latter, for example, being one of the most important groups working on the ground in the aftermath of the quake last year.:


Politics in the name of Women

ANAA stands with its civil society partners, Aurat Foundation, Sungi and many others in expressing their opposition to the Women's Protection Bill (WPB). The Bill is being wrongfully used by the Government of Pakistan to gain political mileage in the guise of championing women's rights. Our opposition to the Bill is based on the following reasons:
  1. The reason ANAA supported the prosecution of rape under the Pakistan Penal Code instead of the Sharia Courts was because the former has never historically prosecuted the crimes of adultery and fornication. This basic difference has been eliminated by introducing the new crime of "lewdness" into the Pakistan Penal Code.
  2. The Amended Women's Protection Bill actually introduces a new crime under Section 496B of the Pakistan Penal Code. This new crime entitled "lewdness" would punish anyone engaging in consensual sexual relations outside of a marital relationship. Absent evidentiary requirements, the creation of this new crime now creates new opportunities in which citizens merely accused of "sexual relations outside marriage" can be thrown in jail and face a five year prison sentence as well as !0,000 rupee fine.
  3. While the new Bill allows rape cases to be tried under the Pakistan Penal Code and removes the supposed evidentiary requirement of providing four adult male witnesses, the creation of the new crime of "lewdness" under the PPC effectively eliminates any cumulative gains.
  4. Ultimately, the new bill uses the already confusing mixture of Sharia and Civil law effective in Pakistan to achieve political gains while ignoring the reality that under the new legal regime private citizens face prison charges for mere accusations of sexual impropriety.
  5. The Bill does not repeal the entire Hudood Ordinance which has been the demand of ANAA as well as all other civil society and human rights organizations in Pakistan. In doing so, the Bill fails to follow the recommendations of the National Council of Women or the Council of Islamic Ideology which have both recommended a complete repeal of the Bill.
For these reasons, ANAA renews its demands to the Government of Pakistan to stop playing with the lives of the citizens of Pakistan by introducing laws that pretend to change the status quo while effectively not doing anything to change the status of women in law and society. For questions please contact rzakaria@4anaa.org

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