PAKISTAN. SENATE APPROVES RAPE LAW REFORM BILL
November 23, 2006: Pakistan's Senate overcame opposition from hard-line Muslim lawmakers and amended the rape law to make it easier to prosecute sexual assault cases.
Human rights activists have long condemned the rape law for punishing -- instead of protecting -- rape victims while providing legal safeguards for their attackers. The amended law would drop the death penalty for people found to have had sex outside of marriage, though they still would be subject to a five-year prison term or $165 fine.
Judges also will be able to choose whether to try a rape case in a criminal court or Islamic court. Under the current Hudood Ordinance, rape victims could raise a case only in the Islamic court. The law also requires testimony from four witnesses, making a trial of an alleged rapist almost impossible.
The bill now goes to the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who is expected to sign it into law as a major test of his push to introduce "enlightened moderation" to this Islamic nation. (Sources: Washington Post, 24/11/2006)