Pakistan Law and Violence Against Women

Posted by Jeremy Morley | Apr 29, 2007 | 0 Comments

The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) of Pakistan ruled on March 31, 2007 that a woman who is raped should not be considered guilty of adultery and should be viewed under the law as a victim of rape.

The ruling may reduce the impact of the Hudood Ordinances adopted in Pakistan in 1979 under which in order to prove her case, a woman has to produce four adult Muslim men as witnesses to testify before an Islamic court that they saw the forced sexual act. If the victim fails to produce the witnesses she will be accused of adultery and sent to prison or lapidated. The same rules provide that evidence provided by non Muslims is not admissible before a court. However, the CII is merely an advisory body. 

But in an article entitled Violence Against Women and International Law, New York International Law Review, Vol. 20, p.57 (Winter 2007), Rebecca Adams states that in Pakistan:

  • “The subordination of women is effectively written into the law. Women have limited or no recourse when they are victimized by domestic violence.”
  • "Men view their wives as property and in fact, certain interpretations of Islamic law allow husbands to ‘control and physically discipline their wives as necessary.'"
  • "Evidence suggests that somewhere between 70 and 90% of Pakistani women are victims of domestic violence."
  • "The Pakistani legal system is comprised of 'tribal codes, Islamic law, Indo-British judicial traditions and customary traditions' that have created an ‘atmosphere of oppression around women, where any advantage or opportunity offered to women by one law, is cancelled out by one or more of the others.'"
  • Pakistan does not have any specific legislation against domestic violence.
  • Even egregious crimes such as honor killings, where a man murders his wife for apparent or suspected infidelity, almost always receive minimal punishment.
  • Women who bring claims of assault often face bias within the justice system from police officers, prosecutors and judges who are more likely to believe that a woman is trying to ‘frame' a man or that domestic violence is a private matter that is sanctioned by the law and culture.
  • A woman claiming sexual assault is more likely to be jailed for fornication or adultery than to be successful in her suit.
  • Marriage is a complete defense to a charge of rape.

About the Author

Jeremy Morley

Jeremy D. Morley was admitted to the New York Bar in 1975 and concentrates on international family law. His firm works with clients around the world from its New York office, with a global network of local counsel. Mr. Morley is the author of "International Family Law Practice,...


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