12/01/2006, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Muslim leaders give thumbs up to law protecting women

For the Council of Islamic Ideology, the proposed amendments to Hudood Ordinances are not anti-Qur'anic, yet extremists continue to protest. For them, the Women's Protection Act violates the Sharia.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) ruled yesterday that the Women's Protection Act does not violate injunctions of the Qur'an and the Sunnah. Its chair and members fully endorsed the proposed legislation to protect women. All claims and complaints by Islamic extremists, who continue to agitate across the country, are thus baseless. The bill is now waiting for the President Pervez Musharraf's signature to become law.

In a statement the CII said that the bill was a step in the right direction and would remove many of the anomalies in the laws relating to women.

In essence, the Women's Protection Act introduces few but important amendments to the notorious Hudood Ordinances. Adopted in 1979, the Ordinances regulate matters relating to property, adultery and activities prohibited under Islamic law like drinking alcohol and gambling. And they are also enforceable on non-Muslims. Above all, they are unfair to women victims of rape and other sexual crimes.

The new law has however been very controversial and generated protests across the country. Clashes between police and demonstrators from the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of six Islamist parties, were reported yesterday in Lahore and Gujranwala.

For MMA leaders and members, the Women's Protection Act violates Islamic law and they want the government to revoke it.

President Musharraf however is in favour of the law and is expected to sign it next Monday.

Human and civil rights groups have welcomed the government's initiative, but they insist that the Hudood Ordinances should be scraped altogether.

Similarly, some CII members who disagreed with the majority point out that, except for a few points, the new legislation is not that much different from the Ordinance.

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