Pakistan commended on new marital rape law

Pakistan commended on new marital rape law

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has welcomed a Pakistani legal reform that strengthens women’s rights in marriage and criminalises unconsented sexual acts.

The change in law has led to the first conviction for marital rape in the province of Sindh, where a Karachi sessions court convicted a man for raping his wife, sentencing him to three years’ imprisonment.

The judgment comes after the man’s wife accused him of engaging in forced sexual acts and sodomy that constituted a violation under section 377 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), which outlaws “unnatural offences”.

Advocate Bahzad Akbar, representing the victim, argued that “sodomy falls within the definition of rape and marital rape in this case after an amendment was brought to Section 375 of the PPC in 2021”.

Prior to September 2018, there had not been a single case of marital rape filed or prosecuted in Pakistan. The amendment marks a significant milestone in the fight against sexual violence within marital relationships, and in cementing informed consent.

IBAHRI director, Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, emphasised the transformative effect of this legal change on women’s rights in Pakistan, saying: “This ruling affirms that marital rape does in fact exist in Pakistan, and that marriage does not mean automatic consent.

“It, together with the amendment to Section 335, signifies a crucial step forward in advancing the rights of women, reinforcing women’s sexual autonomy, and providing increased protection in domestic abuse cases. Such legislative changes are instrumental in dismantling systemic barriers and fostering a culture of gender equality.”

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