‘Islamic’ Rape Laws in Pakistan Add Suffering to Victims

on Monday, July 8, 2013

As if getting raped is not enough, women in Pakistan may suffer as much as stoning to death for being raped ever since the Council of Islamic Ideology, a self-proclaimed group of Islamic scholars, declared that DNA tests are no longer admissible as primary evidence in rape cases. They have reached the conclusion that DNA tests could, at best, only be used as secondary evidence.

In 2006, the Pakistani Parliament passed the Women Protection Bill, which moved Pakistan’s rape laws from under the ambit of the Islamic Hudood Ordinances to local civil law, which has more room for forensic evidence. These group of Islamic scholars, however, believe there is a proper procedure for prosecuting alleged rapists in Islamic scriptures. Bringing rape laws back into the ambit of the convoluted interpretation of Islam, that these scholars hold, is a step in the wrong direction.

Allama Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, a member of the CII, speaking about DNA tests, maintained, “It cannot be treated as the main evidence but it certainly is a great help in investigations”. He insisted that the Qur’anic verse that required four witnesses, apparently for cases of rape, could not be ignored. The CII has concluded that no rape case can proceed without the four-honest-Muslim-witness requirement.

This means that if a woman is unable to produce the necessary evidence that she was raped, she may be tried for adultery, a crime which boasts a harsh punishment of stoning to death. Although it is unlikely that a court would convict a woman for committing adultery on the same limited evidence that was not sufficient to convict a man for committing rape, the fact of the matter is that fewer women are going to bring forward rape cases in a society where extramarital sex is already a taboo.

As far as my understanding of Islam goes, the use of science and technology are not only allowed, but justified in Islam. As a matter of fact, a significant portion of the Qur’an talks about the importance of justice, regardless of the status, religion, caste, creed, gender and age of a person.

Literally interpreting words of God that were revealed over 1,400 years ago is equivalent to asking for trouble. I am not an Islamic scholar by any means, but I believe I have a fairly decent understanding about some of the many issues in the contemporary Muslim world. Many of these issues are the result of a literalist mindset, where people are being advised to live their lives according to a 14th century mindset. Sure, there were no DNA tests in the 14th century, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use them now when their accuracy is well-documented.

Ultimately,this absurd decision by the Council of Islamic Ideology reads as follows: NO WITNESSES? NO RAPE. After all, what kind of rapist would rape an innocent person in broad daylight, with four pious Muslim witnesses observing his every move, yet refusing to stop him?

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