It is a notable development given the political pressures surrounding the issue of rape in Pakistan:
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 Women's Protection Bill was seen both as a barometer of President Pervez Musharraf's commitment to his vision of "enlightened moderation" and a major battle in a long struggle between progressive forces and religious conservatives to set the Muslim nation's course.
However, Human Rights Watch highlights some of the shortcomings of the bill:
Human Rights Watch emphasized that despite its positive provisions, the draft Women's Protection Bill fails to comply with many of Pakistan's obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, which calls on states to modify or abolish laws that discriminate against women. The amendments fail to address fundamental problems with the Hudood Ordinances, such as the discriminatory provisions that criminalize sex outside of marriage and fail to recognize marital rape. However, Human Rights Watch said Pakistan's failure to address all these issues should not be used as an excuse to address none.