In Pakistan, the legal recognition of rape as a crime has changed in pace with the dominant narrative on women’s sexuality. The country’s most troublesome categorisation of rape was, unfortunately, introduced under the pretext of compliance with the Islamic Law, as part of the so-called Hudood Ordinances of 1979. The Hudood Ordinances introduced ambiguity into the law by putting the criminal act of rape into the same category as fornication and adultery, which is at odds to how most national legislatures categorise the crime rape.

In 2006, Pakistan adopted the Protection of Women (Criminal Law Amendment) Act (Women’s Protection Act or WPA), which reclassified rape differently from fornication and adultery and substantively revised sections of Pakistan’s Penal Code that dealt with the crime. This report primarily focuses on these changes in Pakistan’s rape laws and how they have been implemented. It relies on research of secondary sources as well as direct interactions with women’s rights activists, political party members, legal professionals, and religious scholars.

 We collected first-hand information for this report through six in-depth interviews with key individuals in the Layyah district. Our goal was to find out the respondents’ perceptions about women’s protection laws, including (i) whether more laws are needed, (ii) what barriers make obtaining justice for victims of sexual violence difficult, and (iii) how the rape incident discussed as a case study at the end of this report was handled.