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Successful ‘Campaign against Domestic Violence and Discriminatory Laws’ meetings

“It’s not God’s law but an instrument of oppression against women.” This comment was made by speakers and participants during seminars organised by the Socialist Movement Pakistan (CWI- Pakistan) and Swair Women’s Organisation (SWO), in different areas of Lahore. These seminars are part of a campaign to repeal discriminatory laws against women.

The meetings were organised in the working class areas of Badami Bagh, Kot Lakhpat and Shalimar Town. More than 200 women and young women participated. Fourteen female councilors also attended the seminars and committed to raise this issue in local councils. The main speakers were Rukhsana Manzoor, Farah Ijaz, Khalid Bhatti, Asma, Naheed Khan and Moona Malik. Working class women and young women took a keen interest in the meetings. It was clear from their questions that many women know very little about the content of the discimantory laws. After reading a leaflet produced by Socialist Movement and Swair Women’s Organisation (SWO), explaining the real nature of these laws, most of women supported the demand to repeal the legislation. More than 1,000 of the leaflets were distributed in local areas of Lahore.

The seminar speakers rejected amendments to the Hudood Ordinance. They demanded the complete repeal of this draconian law. They declared this law un-constitutional, in-human, discriminatory and exploitative. The legislation was not made by the God but a military dictator. This law is man-made and aimed at oppressing further poor working class women. The implementation of this law, over the last 27 years, clearly showed it is widely misused by the police. Thousands of innocent poor women were victimized using the Hudood Ordinance. Thousands of women spent many years in prisons for crime they never committed.

Speakers commented that all the leading Islamic scholars declared the ordinance “un- Islamic”. However, some religious political parties support the law, as a way to get political support from the most backward and reactionary sections of society.

Seminar speakers pointed out that General Zia promulgated the Hudood Ordinance because he wanted to prolong his rule in the name of the “Islamisation” of society. This law was made to serve the personal interests of a military dictator, which used Islam as political instrument to repress women and the working class.

The seminars summarized in eight points why the Hudood Ordinance must be opposed:
* Under this law, a female rape victim needs four adult Muslim males ‘witnesses’ to prove rape. If she fails to produce the witnesses, the rape victim will face charges of ‘adultery’ (consensual sex), which is a crime under Islamic law.
* The Hudood Ordinance also applies to religious minorities. This mean means that if Christian women want to prove they were raped, they must provide four Muslim male adult witnesses. How can a Christian women produce male Muslim adults, if, for example, the rape was committed in a non-Muslim area?
* This law treats consensual sex and rape as the same. There is no distinguishing between a rape and consensual sex.
* The Hudood Ordinance does not accept females as witness in rape cases. If a woman is raped in front of four females she can not prove this was rape.
* There are only 16 out of 101 legislative sections that are related to Islamic Laws. Eighty five man-made laws were imposed as ‘Islamic Laws’.
* The Hudood Ordinance is the most misused law in Pakistan. Even General Musharraf, Pakistan’s military ruler, accepted that fact, on many occasions. Under the law, the police can arrest a couple in a park or on the street, on suspicion that they were “thinking about and preparing to have” sex. The police even arrest people on the streets on charges of kissing in a public place.
* The Hudood Ordinance violates basic fundamental and constitutional rights. This law discriminates on the basis of gender and religion.
* All the leading Islamic scholars, in Pakistan, unanimously agree that according to Islamic laws and traditions, no women can be arrested and sent to prison or locked in police station, on any charges, except murder, and for some other very serious crimes. But under the Hudood Ordinance, police can arrest a woman on minor charges and can send them to prison.

On these grounds, the Hudood Ordinance must be immediately repealed!

Rukhsana Manzoor

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