As I have noted many times, Islam's evidence laws put victims of rape in Islamic societies at considerable risk. It is good to see that some Pakistanis have noticed this also.
"After TV Debates, Pakistan May Ease Laws on Rape Reporting," from the NY Times, with thanks to DFS:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, July 8 — The young audience fell into confused silence and then buzzed with whispers after Mir Ibrahim Rahman announced that there was no difference between an apple and an orange.
Mr. Rahman, 28, chief executive of the immensely popular Geo TV network, was speaking last Sunday at a youth conference in Rawalpindi, the garrison city adjacent to the capital, Islamabad. His absurd statement, he immediately made clear, was meant to illustrate the failings of a set of Islamic decrees known collectively as the Hudood Ordinance.
The laws, introduced in 1979 and criticized internationally since, include a clause stating that to prove rape, a woman must have at least four male witnesses. If the woman fails to provide proof, she herself faces the charge of adultery.
"The Hudood Ordinance makes no distinction between rape and adultery," Mr. Rahman explained to his audience. "It is just like saying there is no difference between an apple and an orange."
That flaw, critics say, has put many women behind bars. Of about 6,000 women in Pakistani custody awaiting trial as of March, 4,621 were being held on Hudood violations, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent group. Some 1,300 women awaiting trial were ordered released on Friday, after President Pervez Musharraf allowed bail in nonviolent offenses.
Pakistani society has remained bitterly divided over the laws. Orthodox clergymen have often portrayed the laws as divine ("hudood" refers to punishments in the Koran for adultery and fornication, as well as for consuming alcohol, making false accusations and stealing). Rights advocates have demanded absolute repeal since 1980's. They maintain that the Hudood Ordinance not only negates the rights of women but is also a misinterpretation of Islam.
Now, there are signs that the laws may be, at the least, softened. And Mr. Rahman — who has pressed for public debate over them in television shows, advertising campaigns and personal appearances at seminars, like the one last Sunday — may be a major reason.
Of course, these laws are based on the notorious incident in which Muhammad's wife Aisha was accused of adultery. The brouhaha was settled when Muhammad received a revelation from Allah requiring four witnesses: "Why did they not bring four witnesses to prove it? When they have not brought the witnesses, such men, in the sight of Allah, (stand forth) themselves as liars!" (Qur'an 24:13).
That will be hard to reform.