[JURIST] Pakistan's Senate [official website] Thursday approved a reformed rape law that allows rape cases to be tried in either secular or Islamic courts, reduces the evidentiary burden necessary for conviction, and substitutes a fine and five-year prison term for persons found guilty of having sex outside of marriage. The Protection of Women Bill is expected to replace the Hudood Ordinances [Pakistan government backgrounder], which limited rape action to Islamic courts applying Sharia law. The bill has been strongly resisted by Muslim traditionalists, but is supported by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who is expected to sign it into law. From Pakistan, Dawn has local coverage.
The National Assembly approved the bill [JURIST report] last week. Parliament had initially postponed consideration [JURIST report] of a revised version of the bill in September due to opposition. Women's and human rights groups have praised the bill, noting the inherent discrimination and the inadequacy of the Sharia system in a country where, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan [official website], rapes are perpetrated every two hours and gang rapes every eight hours.