Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A serious post, for once

The case reported above has been rumbling on for a while now, that of reforming Pakistan's rape prosecution laws. The original bill has been amended after an outcry from religious groups protesting plans to make rape accusations tried under civil as well as Islamic law. At present, a woman in Pakistan has to present four male witnesses to prove her case; if her attacker is found not guilty she can instead be punished for having extra-marital sex. Rape is apparently a capital crime in Islam, and so the need to prove such an accusation is paramount, as for any capital crime. But having to bring four male, not even female, witnesses to one's violation? How many women can even find one man willing to testify? It's also interesting, though frightnening, to realise that the hudood ordinance (which requires the four witnesses), was only promulgated in 1979. The law is thus not even traditional - if that's any excuse for keeping such an unfair piece of legislation.

While deploring the appalling rate of rape and violence against women in Pakistan (and hoping that the new laws do get passed with minimal amendments), we can't feel superior in the west. Even here, in a so-called civilised country, where we pride ourselves on our human rights, the burden of proving rape still lies on the woman attacked, and successful prosecutions are rare. This is partly because of reluctance to report the crime, and partly because proving such accusations often come down to one person's word against another's, and which the jury believes. When, even now, large numbers of the population believe that a woman is "wholly responsible" for being raped if she is drunk or dresses provocatively, then the average jury won't give the woman the benefit of the doubt.

It makes one wonder, in these supposedly enlightened days, why many men still fear women and wish to subjugate them.


Post a Comment

<< Home