ISLAMABAD, Dec 1: President Gen Pervez Musharraf signed into law the Protection of Women Bill, 2006, which amended the widely criticised Hudood laws in the teeth of fierce criticism from religious parties that held protest demonstrations throughout the country on Friday.

The bill places rape laws under the penal code and does away with harsh conditions that previously required victims to produce four male witnesses and exposed them to prosecution for adultery if they were unable to prove the crime.

The National Assembly voted in favour of the bill on Nov 15 and the Senate approved it on Nov 23.

A parliamentary bill becomes a law when it receives the presidential assent under Article 75 of the 1973 Constitution.

“President Musharraf today gave his assent to the Women Protection Bill,” federal Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sher Afgan said.

“It has become a law and would immediately be enforced all over the country. The credit goes to President Musharraf for the passage of this bill because he is the only leader who has shown tremendous courage and determination to amend a piece of legislation that had been a bane for women since 1979. I congratulate the nation and all political parties who supported the bill which would benefit the women of Pakistan.”Human rights groups, who have long campaigned for a change in the law, hailed the bill.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Hina Jillani, a vice-chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. But her group wants the law, introduced by Gen Ziaul Haq to make Pakistani legislation more Islamic, repealed.—Agencies

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