Civil society urges govt to repeal Hudood laws
ISLAMABAD – Scholars, civil society representatives and academics in Islamabad on July 16 called for repeal of Hudood ordinances as, according to them, these laws have brought in more oppression and injustices to women and minorities.
They expressed this view at a panel discussion held under the aegis of Islamabad Cultural Forum here. A unanimous resolution presented by Prof Khawaja Masud at the end of the discussion said, “Hudood ordinances have been controversial since its promulgation in 1979 and during the last 24 years these laws have brought more oppression and injustice to the underprivileged sections of the society, particularly women and minorities.
Hence these laws should be repealed in accordance with the recommendations by the Commission of Inquiry for Women in 1979, and more recently by the National Commission on the Status of Women, as well as women rights and human rights groups”.
In a presentation on Hudood Laws, Justice Majida Rizvi, chairperson of the National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW), said while drafting these laws a number of extraneous inputs have been included. These incorporations did not find corroboration in cases with what is found in the holy Quran.
In five meetings of the special committee which reviewed these ordinances 11 members out of 15, of the committee, had recommended repeal of Hudood Laws. The other two members recommended that these laws should be amended to remove defective parts of it while one member had not expressed any definite opinion but said the laws should be enforced.
Justice Rizvi said thus the special committee had unanimously recorded its finding that these laws were full of lacunas and anomalies and their enforcement had caused injustice instead of dispensing justice.
As such all four ordinances should be repealed and in their place the original penal law mentioned in these ordinances should be restored. Identifying key issues she said that these laws were not delivering justice hence should not remain in the statue book.
She quoted an example whereby majority of sections contained in the Hudood laws were taken from the Pakistan Penal Code) PPC and only a few sections dealt with Hadd offences. She said it would be unfair that Tazeer provisions should be mixed with Hudood provisions. In this regard she quoted section 8 which dealt with Zina (fornication/adultery) and Zina bil jabr (forced rape).
She said the laws were confusing on these points because under the existing law the victims of zina bil jabr becomes an accused, which is unjust and militates against the spirit of Islamic legal system. Further, the law encouraged rape. The punishment for zina and zina bil jabr could not be the same. Moreover, zina bil jabr was not mentioned in he holy Quran at all.
Another unjust feature of the ordinances is in their application on non-Muslims but they were debarred being represented by a non-Muslim, and were also excluded from calling non-Muslim witnesses.
In Ms Rizvi’s view the 1979 Hudood ordinances suffered from a number of defects with regard to evidence of women and non-Muslims, it excluded non-Muslim judges from presiding, in linking adulthood with puberty and setting out the same requirements for zina as well as zina bil jabr.
“The curious fact about these laws are that only poor women have suffered but has not touched middle and upper class women from its application,” she said. In her presentation Dr Farzana Bari of the Quaid-i-Azam University said the Hudood laws are by-passing democratic processes as well as parliament. She said the ordinances were clubbed with laws of the Martial law governments which were adopted and regularized by the parliament.
She said that these were man-made laws and could be repealed in the same way in which they were made, viz through an ordinance. She argued that it was made applicable as a religious tool by Zia regime to gain legitimacy.
Dr Bari said that various governments used religion as a convenient lever to maintain status quo. The present government was no exception in that during the LFO negotiations with the MMA it had agreed that Hudood laws would not be touched, she added.
Dr Tariq Rahman called the ordinances as evidence of male dominated society which did not want to yield ground to women who constitute nearly half of the country’s population.
A senior journalist Fareeda Hafeez and a girl participant came up with the question whether males were in jail for marrying a second time without getting permission of the first spouse.
Ashfaque Saleem Mirza explained that it was necessary at this juncture to air the views of the civil society on Hudood ordinances since the government was now seized with the matter and intends to do something about its offending provisions.