In a blow for women's rights in Pakistan, the government's proposals for reforming the country's cruel rape laws were dropped today. Under the Hudood Ordinances, which are based on sharia law, a woman must produce four male witnesses in order to convict her rapist, a requirement that often cannot be fulfilled simply because rapes are often private crimes. The proposed law would have allowed women to choose whether they would prosecute a rapist under the Hudood Ordinances or under Pakistan’s civil penal code. Religious conservatives, however, strongly opposed the proposed laws and threatened to walk out of parliament if the laws were passed, The Independent wrote.
Women rape victims in Pakistan are often further punished by the judicial system because, when a victim cannot produce four male witnesses, she can be convicted of adultery – a crime punishable by death. Human Rights Watch issued a statement denouncing the Hudood Ordinances because these laws render “most sexual assault victims unable to seek redress through the criminal justice system, deeming them guilty of illegal sex rather than victims of unlawful violence or abuse.”
The Independent reports that the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan found in 2002 that a woman is raped every two hours and gang-raped every eight hours. These rates, however, might be significantly higher because of social mores, unfair laws, and insensitive treatment from police officers and government officials that discourage rape victims from reporting crimes.
Media Resources: The Independent 9/12/2006; Reuters 9/11/2006; AP 9/11/2006; Human Rights Watch 9/6/2006