Hudood Ordinance

Hudood Ordinance

The Hudood Ordinance ( _ur. حدود مسودہ) (also spelled Hudud) was a law in Pakistan that was enacted in 1979 as part of then military ruler Zia-ul-Haq's Islamization process, and replaced/revised in 2006 by the Women's Protection Bill.

The Hudood Law was intended to implement Islamic Shari'a law, by enforcing punishments mentioned in the Quran and sunnah for "Zina" (extramarital sex) [ [ The Offence of Zina (Enforcement Of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979] : English text of the law] , "Qazf" (false accusation of zina), Offence Against Property (theft), and Prohibition (the drinking of alcohol).

The ordinance has been criticized as leading to "hundreds of incidents where a woman subjected to rape, or even gang rape, was eventually accused of Zina" and incarcerated, [ [ NATIONAL COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN'S REPORT ON HUDOOD ORDINANCES 1979] ] and defended as punishment ordained by God and victim of "extremely unjust propaganda". [ [ The Reality of ‘Women Protection Bill] ]


For married Muslims, the maximum punishment for "zina" is death by stoning, or for unmarried couples or non-Muslims, 100 lashes. In practice, only imprisonment has ever been enforced, because the maximum punishments require four eyewitnesses as above.

The maximum punishments for drinking alcohol is 80 lashes. Theft carries a maximum punishment of amputation of the right hand.


The ordinance is most criticized for making it exceptionally difficult and dangerous to prove an allegation of rape. A woman alleging rape is required to provide four adult male witnesses of good standing of "the act of penetration". In practice this is virtually impossible as no man of good standing would stand there and watch the violent act. Failure to find such proof of the rape places the woman at risk of prosecution for accusing an innocent man of adultery, which does not require such strong evidence. ["Washington Times", [ "A victory for Pakistani women"] ] Moreover, to prove rape the female victim has to admit that sexual intercourse had taken place. If the alleged offender, however, is acquitted for want of further evidence the woman now faces charges for either adultery, if she is married, or for fornication, if she is not married. According to a report by Pakistan National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) "an estimated 80% of women" in jail in 2003 were there as because "they had failed to prove rape charges and were consequently convicted of adultery." [ [ Jails and prisoners, State of Human Rights 2004, HRCP] The number of women "believed to be in jail in March" 2003 according to the HRCP report is 1500.]

Stories of great personal suffering by women who have claimed to be raped have appeared in the press in the years following the passing of the Hudood ordinances.

The evidence of guilt was there for all to see: a newborn baby in the arms of its mother, a village woman named Zafran Bibi. Her crime: she had been raped. Her sentence: death by stoning. Now Ms. Zafran, who is about 26, is in solitary confinement in a death-row cell ...

Thumping a fat red statute book, the white-bearded judge who convicted her, Anwar Ali Khan, said he had simply followed the letter of the Koran-based law, known as hudood, that mandates punishments.

"The illegitimate child is not disowned by her and therefore is proof of zina," he said, referring to laws that forbid any sexual contact outside marriage. Furthermore, he said, in accusing her brother-in-law of raping her, Ms. Zafran had confessed to her crime. [ [ In Pakistan, Rape Victims Are the 'Criminals' By SETH MYDANS] From: "New York Times," May 17, 2002 ]

However, Mufti Taqi Usmani, an instrumental figure in making the law, has stated

If anyone says that she was punished because of Qazaf (false accusation of rape) then Qazaf Ordinance, Clause no. 3, Exemption no. 2 clearly states that if someone approaches the legal authorities with a rape complaint, she cannot be punished in case she is unable to present 4 witnesses. No court of law can be in its right mind to award such a punishment. [Mufti Taqi Usmani (retired judge), [ The Reality of ‘Women Protection Bill’] ]

A number of international, Islamic and Pakistani human rights organizations campaign for the law's repeal. Some have argued that it goes beyond what is required by Shari'a. [Muttahida Quami Movement, [ "Particular coterie of religious scholars wish to deprive women of their just and basic rights"] , 7 September 2006] They are opposed by culturally conservative religious parties, who accuse them of departing from Islamic values and support only changes which accord with their own interpretation of Shari'a. The governments of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif both set up commissions to investigate the Hudood Ordinance. Both commissions recommended amending certain aspects of the law, but neither government followed through.

Revision of ordinance

In 2006, then President Pervez Musharraf again proposed reform of the Ordinance. ["The Hindu", [ "Musharraf wants Hudood laws amended"] ] On November 15 2006, the Women's Protection Bill was passed in the National Assembly, allowing rape to be prosecutable under civil law. The bill was ratified by the Senate on 23 November 2006, [BBC News, [ "Pakistan senate backs rape bill"] ] and became law after President Musharraf signed it on 1 December 2006. [ [ "Musharraf signs Women's bill"] ]

The reforms have come under considerable opposition from Islamist groups in Pakistan, who insist that law should stay in Sharia form but amended. Some Islamists have fiercely criticised the laws. [ Islam Channel's presenters Hassan and Habibah [] ] Other legal experts have claimed that the original law was not so unbalanced as its opponents claim [Mufti Taqi Usmani (retired judge), [ The Reality of ‘Women Protection Bill’] ] or that the reforms will be impossible to enforce. [BBC News, [ "Strong feelings over Pakistan rape laws"] ]

See also

*Pakistan penal code


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