Thousands of Pakistanis took to the streets of Karachi on November 26 to protest the recent amendment to the 1979 Hudood Ordinance on rape, as a coalition of six religious parties threatened that its MPs would resign next month.
“We’ll intensify our protests to mobilise the people to stand against the induction of anti-Islamic laws,” Qazi Hussain Ahmed, a central leader of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), told the rally.
Both houses of the Pakistani parliament have recently approved amendments that put the crime of rape under Pakistan ’s British-influenced secular civil penal code not the Hudood Ordinances, enforced in 1979 by the then military ruler Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq.
The new bill describes adultery instead as lewdness slashing the punishment to imprisonment of up to five years against only male perpetrator.
Under the Hudood code, a man and woman found guilty of having sex outside of marriage could be sentenced to death by stoning or 100 lashes, although that has never been enforced and those convicted of the crime get jail or a fine instead.
The legislation is yet to be signed by President Pervez Musharraf for final corroboration.
Musharraf, a key US ally, changed Pakistani law in July to allow women detained on charges of adultery and other minor crimes to be released on bail. Hundreds of women were later freed.