Pakistan: Senate approves amendments to rape law

Pakistan's Senate overcame opposition from hardline Muslim lawmakers and amended its rape law to make it easier to prosecute sexual assault cases. Human rights activists have long condemned the rape law for punishing - instead of protecting - rape victims while providing legal safeguards for their attackers. The legislation, known as the Protection of Women Bill, comes amid efforts by Islamabad to soften the country's hard-line Islamic image and appease moderates and human rights groups who opposed the law. The amended law would drop the death penalty for people found to have had sex outside of marriage, though they still would be subject to a five-year prison term or 10,000 rupees (US$165, €129) fine. Judges also will be able to choose whether to try a rape case in a criminal court or Islamic court. This should make it easier convict rapists than the current system, in which rape victims can only raise a case in the Islamic court and need four witnesses.