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Pakistan's Lower House Passes Landmark Women's Rights Bill


Pakistan's lower house of parliament has passed a landmark bill amending the country's controversial laws governing rape and adultery. The legislation, which has one more hurdle to clear, would overturn Pakistani laws that require women to produce four male witnesses to prove a rape case.

Despite strong opposition from Islamists in parliament, Pakistan's lower house passed the landmark legislation late Wednesday.

Speaker of the House Chaudry Ameer Hussain tallied the final vote.

"All those in favor of the motion may say 'Aye.'

"AYE."

"Against may say no ... I think the 'Ayes' have it, the 'Ayes' have it, so the motion is adopted and the bill is passed."

The law will now be forwarded to the country's Senate, where the ruling party holds a commanding lead and is expected to pass the bill without major opposition.

The legislation effectively shifts future rape cases out of Pakistan's religious courts and into the country's more moderate civil court system.

Passage of the law would significantly curtail Pakistan's conservative Islamic legal system and its so-called Hudood Ordinances, which were originally passed in 1979.

Under those laws, women are liable to prosecution for adultery if they fail to produce four male Muslim witnesses to corroborate claims of rape.

Pakistan's conservative Islamic parties have strenuously rejected efforts to change the ordinances.

The MMA, a coalition of Islamist opposition groups, walked out of Tuesday's parliament session before the vote was taken. An MMA official said the new law would violate Islamic principles and promote "free sex" in Pakistan.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has been pushing the country's parliament to amend the Hudood Ordinances for several years.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, told reporters the new law would protect the rights of women in Pakistan. He also said the law is in complete conformity with Islamic teachings.

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