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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 September 2006, 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK
Pakistan delays rape reform plans
Rape victim
Hudood laws can punish women for extra-marital sex
Pakistan's government has delayed presenting a bill in parliament which would have reformed rape laws.

The bill would for the first time have allowed rapists to be tried under civil law as well as Islamic law.

But following complaints from Islamic and secular parties the government says it will now re-draft its proposals to create more of a consensus.

Rape is currently dealt with under the Hudood Ordinance, an Islamic law strongly criticised by women's groups.

The government is trying its best to placate the mullahs
Human Rights Commission Pakistan Director IA Rehman

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says that the government's attempt to reform rape laws have suffered a setback amid growing controversy.

Our correspondent says those political parties which supported the original bill are furious and the Islamic parties are now demanding even more changes.

The government had already revised its original draft to satisfy strong opposition from Islamic parties, and critics accused it of rolling back the reforms to make it even harder for women to take action in rape cases.

Compromise

The Hudood Ordinance criminalises all sex outside marriage, so if a rape victim fails to present four male witnesses to the crime she herself could face punishment and be prosecuted for adultery.

The government says that makes it almost impossible to prosecute a rape case.

It proposed putting the offence of rape in the secular penal code where normal rules of evidence apply.

But it revised the bill because of strong opposition from Islamic parties.

A compromise draft was presented, which said that rape would fall under both Islamic and secular penal codes.

Human rights activists say this will create confusion, allowing powerful religious lobbies to manipulate what is seen as a weak judicial system.




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