ISLAMABAD. As many as 88 per cent of women prisoners in the country are languishing in jails as a result of ambiguities in the Zina Ordinance.
This has been stated in the final report of the special committee on Hudood Ordinance, which was constituted by the National Commission on the Status of Women to repeal or amend the controversial law.
In its final report, the committee has recommended that the law should be repealed because, it added, it was a short-sighted, incomprehensible and confused legislation.
It said majority of the meetings of the committee were dedicated to the most complicated of all the ordinances - the Zina Ordinance.
Short of conviction, women have been held for extended periods of time on charges of Zina after they reported rape. "Therefore, majority of the women in jails are there due to the Zina Ordinance."
The committee held its first meeting in Karachi in May 2002 and subsequently held six other sessions in which it was agreed that the various ordinances should be reviewed section by section.
The report said that for more than two decades the Zina Ordinance had been
relentlessly used against women, majority of them belonging to rural areas.
"Without going into the motives of the Zia regime for introducing the ordinances, which essentially were political, it is obvious that these ordinances were hurriedly drafted and equally hurriedly enforced," the report said.
However, after the introduction of these ordinances, in particular the one
relating to the offence of Zina and Qazf coupled with the subsequent enforcement of Qisas and Diyat Ordinance, it has been found that instead of remedying social ills, the laws led to an increase in injustice against women and, in fact, became an instrument of oppression.
"There have been hundreds of incidents where a woman subjected to rape or even gang-rape was eventually accused of Zina and subjected to wrong and unjust persecution and great ordeal."
In this connection, the defects in the law were greatly exploited by unscrupulous elements in order to perpetrate cruelty on women and children.
The condition of four witnesses was most of the time ignored or sidelined depending on irrational suppositions. As a result of strong and sustained pressure from women's rights groups in civil society, no woman was subjected to the punishment of flogging or for that matter "Rajam", but nevertheless, the threat remained and that in itself caused great distress to the women who even otherwise remained the most exploited individuals in society.
Various women NGOs and human rights organizations have repeatedly protested against the ill-effects of the enforcement of these ordinances but without success.
More and more women were subjected to torment because of these laws and the incidents of rape increased with the passage of time and the jails began to be filled with women on trial under the Zina Ordinance.