Legal Injustices: The Zina Hudood Ordinance of Pakistan and Its Implications for Women By Rahat Imran1 Abstract During recent decades the women of Pakistan have been the most vulnerable and convenient targets of social, domestic and sexual violence. This paper will examine the trend of sexual violence against women that emerged in Pakistan with the introduction of the Islamization process through the implementation of the Sharia laws since1979. The paper's main focus will be on rape and the state legislation that governs it, namely the Zina Hudood Ordinance of 1979 and the Law of Evidence of 1984, and how the genderdiscriminatory nature of these laws serves as a powerful weapon in the hands of the patriarchal society of Pakistan to subjugate women. These laws and their rigid interpretation in the name of Islam have not only facilitated oppression and sexual violence against women to an alarming degree in Pakistan, but also seriously eroded women's chances of equal justice. The factors that led to the implementation and survival of such laws in the first place, and consequently how rape became a daunting weapon against women, will be discussed. The paper will analyze the various political, social, cultural and religious factors that contribute to this situation, and the legal and social complexities involved for women in seeking justice in rape cases. In conclusion, the paper will discuss Pakistani women's initiative in evolving and building an organized resistance and struggle for the repeal of gender discriminatory laws. Keywords: Zina Hudood Ordinance, Islamization, Pakistani women Introduction This paper will place Pakistan in an historical perspective in order to introduce the process of Islamization under the dictatorship of General Zia-ul Haq (1977-88), and show how and why Islam was used as a political tool to introduce gender-discriminatory laws which have seriously undermined women's rights even further in an already orthodox and patriarchal society. The paper will examine the Zina Hudood Ordinance2 and the Law of Evidence3 and their archaic and rigid Sharia4 perspectives that govern sexual behavior and morality under Pakistani law, and how the loopholes within these laws can, and have, specifically encouraged violence and legal injustices against women. I will analyze the difficulties and complexities for female rape victims in obtaining justice in Pakistan through the use
Graduate student at the Department of Women's Studies, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada. Address: Rahat Imran Department of Women’s Studies, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, B.C. V5A 1S6 Canada. 2 The Hudood Ordinance criminalizes Zina, which is defined as extra-marital sex, including adultery and fornication. It makes no distinction between consensual sex and rape. 3 The Law of Evidence states that the testimony of a female is considered half that of a man’s in a Pakistani court of law. 4 Islamic socio-religious laws, based upon the literal interpretation of the Quran, dating back more than 1400 years, and believed by Muslims to be the divine word of God. Journal of International Women’s Studies Vol. 7 #2 November 2005 78
of a specific case study.5 I will discuss how patriarchy and vested political motives in Pakistan joined hands and used religion as a tool to strengthen and support each other. It is also significant to note the regional and religious factors that were shaping the destinies of neighboring Iran and Afghanistan around the same period, and how the highly politicized Islam in all three countries strengthened and supported each other in the name of religion, and undermined and eroded women's rights as the first step towards Islamization. The paper will discuss Pakistani feminists' and women's growing resistance to gender discrimination and rigid religious laws since 1979, and their struggle to have gender- discriminatory laws repealed. This will include a discussion of the...