[JURIST] Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf [official website; BBC profile] signed new legislation Friday allows rape cases to be tried in either secular or Islamic courts, reduces the evidentiary burden necessary for conviction, and substitutes a fine and five-year prison term for persons found guilty of having sex outside of marriage. The Protection of Women Bill, approved by Pakistan's Senate [JURIST report], replaces the Hudood Ordinances [Pakistan government backgrounder], which had previously required rape victims to produce four male witnesses against the accused, or face potential prosecution for adultery.
The new bill has faced opposition from traditionalists, including opposition lawmakers that have threatened to resign from the government. Small protests supporting the opposition have received little support from the public. The bill has been praised by women's and human rights groups as being a step in the right direction in reforming the inherent discrimination and inadequacy of the Sharia system at protecting women. Reuters has more.