Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Thousands rally in Pakistan over rape law changes

More than 20,000 supporters of an Islamic alliance rallied today in Pakistan's port city of Karachi, demanding the government withdraw changes to a controversial rape laws.

More than 300 riot police were deployed to keep the peace, and more than 20,000 supporters of a six-party coalition of Islamic groups - Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal or United Action Forum - joined the rally in Karachi.

No violence was reported.

The protesters condemned President General Pervez Musharraf, many chanting ``Death to Musharraf,'' and one carried a sign reading, ``No to conspiracy for indecency and obscenity.''

Last week Musharraf signed into law some amendments to the Hudood Ordinance, a 1979 law against rape that human rights activists said persecuted rape victims rather than getting them justice.

The ordinance required a rape victim to produce four witnesses in court to prove her assault claim.

Under the new amendment, judges can choose whether a rape case should be tried in a criminal court - where the four-witness rule does not apply - or under the Islamic ordinance.

It also drops the death penalty for sex outside of marriage. The offence would now be punishable with five years in prison or a fine of 10,000 rupees.

Human rights groups have hailed the amendments but Muslim groups claim the measure goes against Islam. Opposition Islamic groups have held a series of protests against the new law since it was passed by Parliament last month.

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