Reaction as DNA ruled out as primary evidence in rape cases in Pakistan

by Hani Amir

Pakistan plunged further into social and political turmoil as extremists in the ranks of Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), the country’s leading Islamic guidance body, has declared DNA test unacceptable as evidence of rape.

Shocked at the CII’s observation on DNA evidence, a human rights activist, Asma Jahangir, believes that its members seem to be keen on protecting rapists or that the council is simply filled with misogynist women-haters guided by “tribal” traditions.

She said that the verdict has left the civil society confused and perturbed at the logic employed by religious authorities who seem hell-bent on protecting their parochial vested interests by relegating DNA as supporting evidence for rape cases.

The hardliners and supporters of the decision by the council, argue that the reason for rejecting the provision is grounded in their fear that using DNA as primary evidence might threaten Islam. Some also claim that DNA testing provisions, which are in the Women’s Protection Act 2006, do not accord with Islamic injunctions.

The Council of Islamic Ideology has 12 appointed members, each with an extensive background in traditional and modern studies. Among them are Manzoor Ahmed and Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, renowned Pakistani philosopher of science and theologist, respectively.

“With such an illustrious presence in the council, I fail to understand how such progressive thinking individuals, fully aware of the status of women in Pakistan, can endorse a verdict which not only stands in violation of the law of evidence and its purported function in various jurisdictions, but also renders women devoid of their right to justice,” says Aaqib Khan, who was praying at the Surrey mosque.

Pakistan is a male-dominated country and a patriarchal society where women have limited avenues available to raise their voice.

“In such a male-oriented society, where crimes against women are a routine occurrence, one feels that the government institutions will do their utmost to protect the rights of women and guarantee them justice on equal grounds,” said an infuriated Ali Furqan, a religious student at Az- Zahra mosque in Richmond.

Crimes against women have increased by at least seven per cent in Pakistan in the last few years. Punjab alone saw an increase of 17 per cent in 2012 and Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa witnessed an increase of 15 per cent. In the same year, there were around 35 cases of honour killings and as many as 186 rape cases reported in 31 districts. The numbers may be higher: stigma is attached to such crimes and women resort to staying mum, fearing persecution at the hands of the society and their immediate family.

According to AWAZ foundation, violence against women in Pakistan has seen an upsurge due to a myriad of factors, including a feudal system, weak implementation of law and lack of female education.

Shariah Law requires a woman to produce four male witnesses to prove that she was raped.

“Logically and rationally speaking, how can a woman in present day and age arrange four male witnesses to be present at the scene while she is being sexually victimized?” asked Raza Iqbal, who was praying at the Surrey mosque.

In Pakistan, there have been instances where people have misused rape laws to force women to marry them, or where peasants are warned of dire consequences if they dare demand wages. A family from Kitro, suffered when the landlord, along with his accomplices, gang-raped five girls in the family for demanding wages. The case had been registered, but justice is far from being served since the girls can’t produce four male witnesses.

Ahmed Ahmed, a Surrey resident, also had questions. “I am not questioning the Shariah Law, but why not use DNA testing as the primary evidence when the victim fails to produce four male witnesses? Why deny women justice in a society where they are already marginalised and seen as perpetrators even if they are not at fault?”

There have also been cases in the recent past where verdicts have been overturned based on DNA evidence, paving way to provide justice where other evidence can be hard to produce.

“The scholars need to debate the issue in light of the social norms, considering how wrongfully convicted women are forced to betroth the accused, killed in honour-killing or get stoned to death,” said Zakia Afzal, a Surrey resident.


Politics aficionado with a keen eye on current affairs.


  • Alycia Sundar
    Reply October 19, 2013

    Alycia Sundar

    Super compelling to read! Great job Aasim!

  • Avatar
    Reply December 6, 2013

    Cindy St-Laurent

    Really interesting topic on something that is very controversial, especially in Canada where our western views make us see this situation in a very negative light (which it is) but it is also impossible to judge when we do not understand the reasoning behind the idea. Sharia law is something which women in Canada who have so many rights and somehow want more, will jump at the idea that their is no basis or understanding for it. Although I do agree that this is wrong, I took a class on the politics of Aghanistan in the summer and I have opened up my eyes that in order to enact change you must first understand the reason behind the actions in the first place. I agree that DNA samples should be used and that this horrible act should not occur but I also think that their are ways to approach this which can promote change and other ways which can lead the path to a new life.

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