The Pakistani parliament will consider and likely approve a bill that would ease overly strict restrictions applied under Islamic law that make it nearly impossible to prove a woman has been raped. Under the Hadood Ordinance, developed by the former dictator Gen. Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq in 1979, rape victims are convicted of adultery unless they have four male witnesses, which human rights groups say makes a rape conviction impossible.
The amendment, if passed, will erase that onerous requirement and require instead that anyone who accuses a woman of adultery produce four witnesses, according to . In addition, forced marriage and kidnapping, as well as trafficking women for prostitution, will be more thoroughly addressed. Those convicted of gang-rape will be sentenced to death and it will be a crime to publish the address of a rape victim, reports Reuters.
Mahnaz Rafi, chairwoman of the Pakistani Parliament’s special committee for women’s development, said, “This will be a historic change and it will end decades of miseries for women,” reports the Associated Press. Naeem Mizra, director of the non-profit Aurat Foundation, added, “The amendments proposed by the government shatter a myth held for 27 years that Hudood laws are divine laws,” according to Reuters.