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Pakistani Senate Passes Amended Rape Law

Pakistan's senate has approved amendments to a controversial rape law that would limit the impact of Islamic law on the crime.

Last week, Pakistan's lower house of Parliament approved the legislation. The bill must be signed by President Pervez Musharraf.

The amended law, known as the Women's Protection Bill, takes the crime of rape out of the sphere of the religious laws, known as the Hudood Ordinances, and puts it under the civil penal code.

Under the 1979 Hudood Ordinances, a alleged rape victim had to produce four male witnesses to prove the crime, or face the possibility of prosecution for adultery.

The new law allows convictions to be made on the basis of forensic and circumstantial evidence.

The amendments are being seen as a major test of President Musharraf's commitment to his vision of "moderate Islam" for the predominantly Muslim country.

Conservative Islamic parties opposed the changes, saying it would promote "free sex" in the conservative country.

Liberal and human rights groups have hailed the amendment, although they also called for the complete abolition of the Hudood Ordinances.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.