Friday, November 24, 2006

A sign of progress in Pakistan

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Progress on what? On rape:

The upper house of Pakistan's parliament has backed a bill amending an Islamic law on rape and adultery.

Until now rape cases have been dealt with in Sharia courts. Victims had to have four male witnesses to the crime -- or else face prosecution for adultery.

The new law, which must be approved by Pakistani leader Gen Pervez Musharraf, allows civil courts to try rape cases...

The new law allows for DNA and other scientific evidence to be used in prosecuting rape cases.

It also drops the death penalty for people having sex outside marriage.

Why is the law needed? Aside from the obvious, aside from basic human and civil rights, here are the shocking statistics:

A woman is raped every two hours and gang-raped every eight hours in Pakistan, according to the country's independent Human Rights Commission.

And those are just reported rapes. Just imagine what the real numbers are.

Well, General Musharraf? You're clearly not an Islamic extremist. (Hey, you were even on The Daily Show -- and you were even pretty funny.) Will you act on this? Will you approve this sensible effort to lift your country's women out of barbarism? Will you sign it into law?

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