Four’s a Crowd

Pakistan took a groping, stumbling step out of the dark ages yesterday when its parliament amended the country’s rape laws to reflect the radical notion that an allegation of rape should not require the corroboration of four witnesses, as previously mandated. That’s right: four witnesses! Hell, why stop there? Why not go for an even minyan?

The change in the law was prompted by international outrage over the case of Mukhtar Mai (above), who was gang-raped in 2002 on the orders of a tribal council in her eastern Punjab village as punishment for her 13 year-old brother’s supposed “fornication” with a woman of a higher caste (the brother was himself serially sodomized by the woman’s relatives). Islamic radicals are predictably incensed and are threatening to thwart the law’s ratification in the parliament’s upper house, the notion of basic dignity and justice for women being apparently incompatible with Allah’s providence. The amendments also include repealing the death penalty for consensual sex outside of marriage. Adulterers can no longer be flogged either, but they do have to pay a fine.

The reforms are most likely the work of Pakistani ruler Pervez Musharraf, who is eager to improve the image of Pakistan’s fundamentalist pseudo-democracy as a society only somewhat more progressive than Genghis Khan. Pakistani women’s rights activists have praised the initiative but feel it doesn’t go far enough. One wonders whether such progressive reforms would be possible in a hyper-traditionalist society if they didn’t flow from the barrel of Musharraf’s gun.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Pakistan, Women's Rights

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