IIAS Newsletter 49 Autumn 2008

The quiet evolution: Islam and women's rights in Pakistan

Martin Lau

Pakistan’s legal system has long been associated with human rights violations. In particular, the controversial Zina Ordinance1, which made sexual intercourse outside marriage a criminal offence. The most pernicious result of this law has been the risk for ‘double jeopardy’ of rape victims. A woman pressing rape charges risked being convicted of adultery if the suspect was acquitted. The infamous case of Safia Bibi, is the most distressing example of this scenario. Yet, as Martin Lau reveals, there have been gradual improvements in the legal position of Pakistan’s women in recent years.

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