[JURIST] Over 20,000 people protested in Pakistan Sunday calling on the government to withdraw new legislation that allows rape cases to be tried in either secular or Islamic courts. The Protection of Women Bill, signed [JURIST report] by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf [official website; BBC profile] earlier this month, amends portions of the Hudood Ordinances [Pakistan government backgrounder, PDF], which limited rape action to Islamic courts applying Sharia law. More than 20,000 Muslim traditionalists participated in the protests, and while over 300 police were called to monitor the area, there were no reports of violence.
The Hudood Ordinances required a rape victim find four witnesses to testify that she was assaulted, but the new law allows judges to decide if individual rape cases should be tried in criminal court, which does not require the four-witness rule. The new law also 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. AP has more.