ISLAMABAD: In a surprise move, Pakistan has officially ‘noted’ a recommendation made during the third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) which suggest repealing laws barring adultery and non-marital consensual sex.
It has also noted, among hundreds of other recommendations, others which suggest decriminalising such activities, and ensuring punishment for all perpetrators of violence against participants and those who may call for such violence, including members and leaders of jirgas.
The UPR recommendations-2017 –copies of which are available with The Express Tribune and online at the UPR’s website, show that the first recommendation was given by Canada, and the second by Czechia (formerly the Czech Republic). ‘Noted’ – Pakistan’s response – means that the country will consider this recommendation and take a final decision on either accepting or rejecting it at a later time, officials explained.
An official working closely with the Ministry of Human Rights confirmed that the recommendation was officially ‘noted’. “Pakistan adopted the third cycle of UPR last month. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) will issue the official document in coming days,” they said, adding that the document which is publically available was issued after Pakistan's review in November 2017.
The UPR was introduced by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006 and involves a unique process of periodic review of human rights records of all UN member states. The process lets states quantify steps needed for improvement in human rights situations around the globe.
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In 2008, Pakistan received 51 recommendations, of which it accepted 43 and rejected eight. These eight pertained to the decriminalisation of defamation and non-marital sexual relations, ending abuse of blasphemy laws, legal reforms to ensure punishments in ‘honour killings’ and the abolition of the death penalty.
Many of these were also either noted or accepted in the most recent UPR.
At its second UPR in 2012, Pakistan received 167 recommendations, out of which it accepted 126, ‘noted’ 34 and rejected seven.
The recommendations rejected by Pakistan included proposals for repeal of laws related to blasphemy and criminalising non-marital sexual relations, abolition of the death penalty, and bringing an end to the ongoing military operation in Balochistan.
While talking to The Express Tribune a human right activist who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue said that Pakistan’s response to these recommendations is quite a surprise.
“Noting the recommendations on decriminalizing adultery and non-marital consensual sex by the Pakistan government during its recent Universal Periodic Review is shocking. The same recommendations were presented in 2008 UPR but were rejected by the government of Pakistan. We really need to check what forced influenced Pakistan.”
He believed that there is a disconnect between what happened at the UN and the ground realities in Pakistan.
“Pakistani officials are showing a liberal face to the west to make them happy, but within the country, they are not even ready to pass and implement laws on issues like child marriage and domestic violence, which shows the double standard of two-faced government officials,” said the activist.
Officials at the Ministry of Human Rights said they have not yet officially received these recommendations from the Foreign Office.
Some of them, however, expressed their views that there are some ‘groups’ who, based on their vested interests, “do this just for the sake of defaming Pakistan”.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Tahir Ashrafi said, “It is impossible to decriminalise adultery in Pakistan as it is against Islam and the Constitution of Pakistan. If the government tries to do so, it would result in a disaster.”
He said that there are few people who are making efforts to defame Pakistan and Islam.
“Anyone who does this will face treason charges,” he claimed.
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Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz said, “It is shocking for all of us to learn that the Pakistani government agreed to even consider this, even though it is impossible to decriminalise such acts in Pakistan.”
He further said that CII will request the Government of Pakistan to probe the matter and see who is behind it.