Pakistan: The Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006 and its implementation
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa|
|Publication Date||3 December 2007|
|Citation / Document Symbol||PAK102659.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Pakistan: The Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006 and its implementation, 3 December 2007, PAK102659.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4784def9c.html [accessed 25 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
The Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006 was approved by the National Assembly on 15 November 2006 (HRW 11 Jan. 2007; HRCP 2007, 199; Dawn 2 Dec. 2006) and was enacted on 1 December 2006 (Pakistan 5 Oct. 2007; Dawn 2 Dec. 2006; US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 5). This Act affects the application of the Hudood Ordinances especially in matters relating to sexual crimes, such as rape (US 2 May 2007, 249). The Act amends some of the provisions in the Hudood Ordinances, inserts and deletes some sections and transfers some offences to the Pakistan Penal Code; for example, it removes the crime of rape from the Hudood Ordinances and inserts it in the penal code instead (Pakistan 1 Dec. 2006; US 2 May 2007, 249; see also CFR 1 Mar. 2007). Previously, according to the Hudood Ordinances, women who accused men of rape required evidence from four men for a conviction, and failing that, faced the possibility of being punished for having sex outside of marriage (BBC 15 Nov. 2006; AI n.d.; Dawn 2 Dec. 2006; see also US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 5). Under the new Act, rape will be an offence under the penal code (US 2 May 2007, 249; HRW 11 Jan. 2007; Dawn 2 Dec. 2006; Pakistan 1 Dec. 2006, Sec. 5) and convictions will be based on evidence (US 2 May 2007, 249). The Act also prohibits charging women with fornication offences in the cases where women allege they were victims of rape but cannot prove their "absence of consent" (AI 2007). Heterosexual consensual sex outside of marriage continues to be criminalized; however, the Act provides that such complaints will be investigated by a court before formal charges are laid (ibid.; BBC 15 Nov. 2006). In addition, sentences of capital punishment and corporal punishment (flogging) for consensual extra-marital sex have been abolished under the Act; however, this offence remains punishable by sentences of up to five years in prison and/or a fine (HRW 11 Jan. 2007; Pakistan 1 Dec. 2006, Sec....
The preamble of the Act declares that "it is necessary to provide relief and protection to women against misuse and abuse of law and to prevent their exploitation" (Pakistan 1 Dec. 2006). Although many human rights activists have welcomed this new legislation as a "step in the right direction" (Dawn 2 Dec. 2006; BBC 15 Nov. 2006; AsiaNews.it 1 Dec. 2006; CFR 1 Mar. 2007), others say that the Act falls short of its stated intentions (HRCP 2007, 199; HRW 11 Jan. 2007). Media sources report that some activists have criticized the Act by stating that it is not very different from the Hudood Ordinances (The News 11 Feb. 2007; AsiaNews.it 1 Dec. 2006), which human and civil rights groups have lobbied to have abolished (ibid.; CFR 1 Mar. 2007; BBC 15 Nov. 2006). The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan describes the Act, in its 2007 report, as "farcical," saying that it does not address discrimination against women, that it creates confusion between Islamic and civil laws, and that it gives "leeway to the judiciary to interpret the law in the most orthodox way" (2007, 199). Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticizes the Act as not complying with Pakistan's obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (11 Jan. 2007). During a public presentation at the University of Ottawa, Asma Jahangir, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief and well-known human rights and women's rights activist, stated that sentences of stoning and amputation are still possible under the Act and that Pakistan had "a long way to go" with regards to women's rights (22 Oct. 2007). An article from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) suggests that reporting rape cases under the Act will be "much harder" because complainants will have to report to district sessions courts, which have limited hours of operation and locations, instead of at local police stations, which are more accessible, especially for those in rural areas (15 Nov. 2006).
Various sources indicate that the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006 has generated conflict in Pakistani society as some people perceive it as anti-Islamic or against the Quran (BBC 15 Nov. 2006; Nawa-e Waqt 15 May 2007; US 5 Dec. 2006; The Daily Times 3 Aug. 2007). The Daily Times further reports that a city-wide strike protesting the Act occurred in Karachi in December 2006 where most of the public transportation stopped operations, major commercial markets were closed and private schools started their winter holidays early in anticipation of the strike (23 Dec. 2006). Around 5,000 activists from the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a conservative Islamist political alliance (BBC 15 Nov. 2006), participated in the rally against the Act and there were reports of violence, though no details were provided (The Daily Times 23 Dec. 2006). Clashes also occurred in Lahore and Gujranwala (AsiaNews.it 1 Dec. 2006).
The Ministry of Women Development of Pakistan indicates on its website that a bill to address customary practices such as forced marriages, Vani-Swara (i.e., giving a woman in marriage to hostile families in compensation for a relative's crime), and "marriage to the Quran" [a practice whereby girls dedicate themselves to studying the Quran and forego marriage (Asharq Alawsat 22 July 2007)] is under review and that another bill to address domestic violence is being forwarded to the Cabinet for approval (Pakistan 5 Oct. 2007; see also The Daily Times 11 Jan. 2007).
Information regarding the implementation of the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006 could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Amnesty International (AI). 2007. "Pakistan." Amnesty International Report 2007.
_____. N.d. Asia Pacific Regional Office. "Hudood Ordinances – The Crime and Punishment for Zina."
Asharq Alawsat [London]. 22 July 2007. Mohammed Al Shafey. "Married to the Quran."
AsiaNews.it. 1 December 2006. "Muslim Leaders Give Thumbs Up to Law Protecting Women."
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 15 November 2006. Syed Shoaib Hasan. "Strong Feelings over Pakistan Rape Laws."
Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). 1 March 2007. Carin Zissis. "Pakistan's Uneven Push for Women."
The Daily Times [Lahore]. 3 August 2007. "Introduction of Women's Protection Act: Pakistani Rulers Have Invited Divine Wrath: JD."
_____. 11 January 2007. "WAF Hails Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Bill."
_____. 23 December 2006. "Anti-WPA Strike in Karachi Partially Successful."
Dawn [Karachi]. 2 December 2006. "Musharraf Signs Women's Bill."
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). 2007. "Rights of the Disadvantaged." State of Human Rights in 2006.
Human Rights Watch (HRW). 11 January 2007. "Pakistan." World Report 2007.
Jahangir, Asma. 22 October 2007. Presentation on the topic of religion and human rights at the University of Ottawa.
Nawa-e Waqt [Rawalpindi, in Urdu]. 15 May 2007. "Pakistan: Ulema Attacks Govt over Women's Protection Bill, Says Against Koran – Unattributed Report: The Entire Nation Has Rejected 'the Women's Protection Act'." (World News Connection)
The News. 11 February 2007. Fatima Bhutto. "The Location of Honour: A Hundred Beats."
Pakistan. 5 October 2007. Ministry of Women Development. "Introducing Women Protection Bill 2006 (Criminal Law)."
_____. 1 December 2006. The Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006.
United States (US). 2 May 2007. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
_____. 6 March 2007. Department of State. "Pakistan." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006.
_____. 5 December 2006. Department of Commerce. National Technical Information Service (NTIS). "Urdu Press Roundup on Meeting of Scholars, PML Chief on Women's Protection Bill." (World News Connection)
Additional Sources Consulted
Internet sites, including: European Country of Origin Information Network (ecoi.net), Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Pakistan Observer [Islamabad], United Kingdom Home Office Country of Origin Information Service.