Hudood Ordinance

Hudood Ordinance

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The Hudood Ordinance (also spelled Hudud) was a law in Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 that was enacted in 1979 as part of then-military ruler Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq
Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq
General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq , was the 4th Chief Martial Law Administrator and the sixth President of Pakistan from July 1977 to his death in August 1988...

's Islamization and replaced or revised in 2006 by the Women's Protection Bill
Women's Protection Bill
The Women's Protection Bill which was passed by the National Assembly of Pakistan on 15 November 2006 is an attempt to amend the heavily criticized Hudood Ordinance laws which govern the punishment for rape and adultery in Pakistan.-Impact of the Bill:...


The Hudood Law was intended to implement Islamic Shari'a law, by enforcing punishments mentioned in the Quran and sunnah
The word literally means a clear, well trodden, busy and plain surfaced road. In the discussion of the sources of religion, Sunnah denotes the practice of Prophet Muhammad that he taught and practically instituted as a teacher of the sharī‘ah and the best exemplar...

 for Zina
Zina (Arabic)
Zinā or Zināʾ is generally defined by Islamic Law as unlawful sexual intercourse, i.e. intercourse between a man and a woman who are not married to one another or in a state of lawful concubinage based on ownership...

(extramarital sex), Qazf (false accusation of zina), Offence Against Property (theft), and Prohibition (of alcohol consumption).

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, and defended as punishment ordained by God and victim of "extremely unjust propaganda".

Islamic law used in other countries states that rapists must be punished for "armed robbery" (hiraba), not adultery (zina), as carried out in Pakistan.

Law code

For married Muslims, the maximum punishment for zina
Zina (Arabic)
Zinā or Zināʾ is generally defined by Islamic Law as unlawful sexual intercourse, i.e. intercourse between a man and a woman who are not married to one another or in a state of lawful concubinage based on ownership...

is death by stoning
Stoning, or lapidation, is a form of capital punishment whereby a group throws stones at a person until the person dies. No individual among the group can be identified as the one who kills the subject, yet everyone involved plainly bears some degree of moral culpability. This is in contrast to the...

. For unmarried couples or non-Muslims, it is 100 lashes
Flagellation or flogging is the act of methodically beating or whipping the human body. Specialised implements for it include rods, switches, the cat o' nine tails and the sjambok...

. Some contend that in practice, only imprisonment
Imprisonment is a legal term.The book Termes de la Ley contains the following definition:This passage was approved by Atkin and Duke LJJ in Meering v Grahame White Aviation Co....

 has ever been enforced because the maximum punishments require four eyewitnesses or above.

The maximum punishments for drinking alcohol is 80 lashes.

Theft carries a maximum punishment of amputation
Amputation is the removal of a body extremity by trauma, prolonged constriction, or surgery. As a surgical measure, it is used to control pain or a disease process in the affected limb, such as malignancy or gangrene. In some cases, it is carried out on individuals as a preventative surgery for...

 of the right hand.


The ordinance is mostly criticized for equiparating the crime of zina (adultery) and zina bil-jabr (rape). As for the zina, a woman alleging rape is required to provide four adult male eyewitnesses. In many cases, the failure to find such proof of the rape places the woman at risk of prosecution for zina. Moreover, to prove rape the female victim has to state that sexual intercourse had taken place, which can then be viewed judicially as an admission of guilt on her own part, rather than as evidence of rape (see blaming the victim).

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 the National Commission on 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."

Stories of great personal suffering by women who claimed to have been raped appeared in the press in the years following the passing of the Hudood Ordinance. The case of Safia Bibi is one of this: a blind girl victim of a rape who was prosecuted for the crime of zina because of her illegitimate pregnancy, while the rapist was acquitted. The case appealed many protests from Pakistani activist and lawyer and from the international organizations. The appeal sentence of the Federal Shariah Court cleared the girl of the accusation of zina.

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 Bibi, 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 Qoran-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.

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.

A number of international and Pakistani human rights organizations still campaign for the law's repeal. Some argue that it goes beyond what is required by Sharia. They are opposed by conservative religious parties, who accuse them of departing from Islamic values. The governments of Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto was a democratic socialist who served as the 11th Prime Minister of Pakistan in two non-consecutive terms from 1988 until 1990 and 1993 until 1996....

 and Nawaz Sharif
Nawaz Sharif
Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif is a Pakistani conservative politician and steel magnate who served as 12th Prime Minister of Pakistan in two non-consecutive terms from November 1990 to July 1993, and from February 1997 to October 12, 1999...

 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 the ordinance

In 2006, then President
President of Pakistan
The President of Pakistan is the head of state, as well as figurehead, of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Recently passed an XVIII Amendment , Pakistan has a parliamentary democratic system of government. According to the Constitution, the President is chosen by the Electoral College to serve a...

 Pervez Musharraf
Pervez Musharraf
Pervez Musharraf , is a retired four-star general who served as the 13th Chief of Army Staff and tenth President of Pakistan as well as tenth Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. Musharraf headed and led an administrative military government from October 1999 till August 2007. He ruled...

 again proposed reform of the ordinance. On November 15, 2006, the Women's Protection Bill
Women's Protection Bill
The Women's Protection Bill which was passed by the National Assembly of Pakistan on 15 November 2006 is an attempt to amend the heavily criticized Hudood Ordinance laws which govern the punishment for rape and adultery in Pakistan.-Impact of the Bill:...

 was passed in the National Assembly
National Assembly of Pakistan
The National Assembly of Pakistan is the lower house of the bicameral Majlis-e-Shura, which also compromises the President of Pakistan and Senate . The National Assembly and the Senate both convene at Parliament House in Islamabad...

, allowing rape to be prosecutable under civil law. The bill was ratified by the Senate
Senate of Pakistan
The Senate of Pakistan is the upper house of the bicameral Parliament of Pakistan. Elections are held every three years for one half of the senate and each senator has a term of six years...

 on 23 November 2006, and became law after President Musharraf signed it on 1 December 2006.

The reforms have come under considerable opposition from Islamist groups in Pakistan, who insist that law should stay in Sharia form. Other legal experts have claimed that the original law was not so unbalanced as its opponents claimed or that the reforms will be impossible to enforce.

Human rights groups and activists in Pakistan have also criticized the bill saying that "The so-called Women's Protection Bill is a farcical attempt at making the Hudood Ordinance palatable". The concern is that thousands of rapes go unreported as victims fear that they would be treated as criminals.

The chair of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf, Imran Khan
Imran Khan
Imran Khan Niazi is a Pakistani politician and former Pakistani cricketer, playing international cricket for two decades in the late twentieth century. After retiring, he entered politics...

, a critic of both the bill and the amendments, has also voiced concerns and scepticism : "This bill doesn't protect women, neither does it remove anomalies. It's just an eye-wash by President Musharraf to tell Washington that I'm your moderate man here. (..) Yes, the Hudood Ordinance discriminates against women and should be repealed". Others, such as Syed Afzal Haider of the Council of Islamic Ideology, have called for the Hudood Ordinance to be annulled: "The Hudood Ordinance should be simply repealed. Any amendments made to it only manage to add to the confusion".

In practice

According to the National Commission for the Status of Women (NCSW) and Amnesty International in Asia and the Pacific, 88% of the female prisoners are in jail as a direct consequence of the Hudood Ordinance on adultery (including both those awaiting trial and those convicted). According to statistics compiled by the Society for Advancement of Community Health Education and Training (SACHET) and Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA) Team for Karachi Women Prison, in 2003-2004, 7000 women and children are languishing in 75 jails in extremely poor conditions.
Still, the Hudood Ordinance goes against the pronouncements of the Quadi-e-Azam MA Jinnah, who in 1944, had expressly stated that women are the equal partners of men. The Hudood Ordinance negates the views of the founder of Pakistan.