Monday 30 September 2013

Pakistani Clerics Reportedly Reverse Course On DNA Evidence In Rape Cases

Finally coming out of the stone age...too little too late...:(
Pakistan's "Express Tribune" on September 20 quotes an unidentified member of the Islamic council as saying that "the discussion on DNA testing was successful and we were unanimous on the issue that DNA tests can be presented as evidence in rape cases coupled with other circumstances of the crime."

Ali Dayan Hasan, the Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch, has welcomed what he says is a long-overdue decision.

"It's a positive development, because it's a move forward by the council," says Hasan. "It will certainly help in providing a scientific basis for rape convictions. The government is now expected to legislate in light of the council's recommendation."

The council's May 2013 decision to uphold the current Shari'a-inspired law -- enacted in 1979 by then-military ruler Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq -- prompted fierce criticism from human rights groups.

Rights groups have said the current law is one of the main reasons for the low rate of rape convictions in Pakistan. Hasan says only around 4 percent of rape cases taken to court result in a conviction.

But he says the council has been under mounting pressure to change course amid public outrage over a number of high-profile rape incidents involving minors, including that of a 5-year-old girl in the city of Lahore earlier this month.

"These [cases] have created a lot of shock within society," he says. "The debate concerning poor conviction rates and the social revulsion over [the lack of action] has, I think, contributed to the council looking at ways in which rape convictions can be made more sound."

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