It’s about time:

“Pakistan’s lower house of parliament voted on Wednesday to put the crime of rape under the civil penal code, curtailing the scope of Islamic laws that rights groups have long criticized as unfair to women.

“The Islamic laws, known as the Hudood Ordinances, were introduced by a military ruler, President Zia-ul-Haq, in 1979. They made a rape victim liable to prosecution for adultery if she could not produce four male witnesses to the assault….

“The main amendment approved on Wednesday takes rape out of the sphere of the religious law and puts it under the penal code.

“That does away with the requirement for four male witnesses and will allow convictions to be made on the basis of forensic and circumstantial evidence….

“In an apparent concession to conservatives, an amendment was introduced shortly before the vote setting down punishment of up to five years in prison for extra-marital sex, though sex outside marriage had always been an offence under laws on adultery….

“The amendments also introduced the concept of statutory rape, outlawing sex with girls under 16. The Islamic code had banned sex with girls before puberty.”

Things were pretty wild for randy men in Islamic-fundamentalist Pakistan, weren’t they? Actually, they still are–for the measure isn’t law yet, and has garnered fierce opposition from members of Pakistan’s radical-Muslim parties, who staged a walkout after yesterday’s liberalizing vote. So there’s no assurance, for example, that the penalties for sex outside marriage won’t continue to be lashing and stoning, as they are right now under the still-in-force Hudood Ordinances.

Still, the vote seems a step in the right direction. As Hot Air headlines its post:

“Pakistan moves to amend rape law, takes tentative step towards 18th century.”

Thanks, Mary Katherine Ham.