Pakistan’s President signed an amendment to a controversial Islamic law on Friday that will allow 1,300 women facing charges of adultery and other minor crimes to be released from prison on bail. President Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s amendment to the Hadood Ordinance allows women awaiting trial to be released on bail, excluding those accused of murder or terrorism.
Under the Hadood Ordinance in Pakistan, developed by the former dictator Gen. Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq in 1979, women can be stoned to death if found guilty of adultery, theft is punished by amputation of the right arm, and drinking alcohol is punishable by 80 lashes, according to the Associated Press. In addition, women are commonly incarcerated on adultery charges. Even rape victims are convicted of adultery under the Hadood Ordinance unless they have four male witnesses, which human rights groups say makes a rape conviction impossible.
“President Musharaff has taken a bold decision to protect the rights of women and save them from the misuse of Islamic laws,” said Sumaira Malik, Pakistan’s Minister for Women’s Affairs, IRIN news reports. Over 6,000 Pakistani women are currently awaiting trial under the Hadood Ordinance, reports IRIN news. Despite the fact that they have been released on bail, they will still face trial for their supposed crimes.