KARACHI, Pakistan, July 16 (UPI Next) --
A reported ruling to limit the use of DNA in rape cases by a body of Islamic scholars that advises Pakistan's government, would be unfair to rape victims, rights activists and politicians have said.
The action was immediately denounced by human rights activists and Sindh's provincial Parliament endorsed calls for mandatory DNA testing in rape cases.
The Council of Islamic Ideology, which advises the government on issues related to Islamic law, discussed the proposal at a two-day sitting in late May. While the CII has stopped short of issuing a public statement on the proposal, deliberations by its members were covered by Pakistan's main newspapers and have sparked intensive public debate.
The CII, established in 1962 as the Advisory Council of Islamic Ideology, is "constitutionally empowered to give advice to Parliament, the president and governors on any question referred to the Council as to whether a proposed law is or is not repugnant to the injunctions of Islam," its website says.
The Dawn, Nation and Pakistan Today newspapers all carried virtually identical reports, without directly quoting any of the council members.
"The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has declared that DNA test is not acceptable as primary evidence in cases of rape, but it could be used as a supporting evidence for confirmation of the crime," the Dawn English-language broadsheet reported.
The country's most senior human rights activists and politicians issued strong condemnations.
"If the government accepts the CII's advice it certainly will have a very negative effect on survivors of rape, because DNA is very reliable evidence," Human Rights Commission of Pakistani Chairwoman Zohra Yusuf said.
Currently DNA testing is not mandatory in rape investigations and is rarely used.
Human rights and women's organizations have been pushing authorities for years to require making DNA testing mandatory in rape cases.
"The CII's move to block DNA testing could be its reaction to demands of rights activists to make it mandatory in cases involving survivors of rape," Yusuf told UPI Next.
"The government's acceptance of the proposal would be a backwards step. It would mean the government did not care for women," Yusuf said.
"DNA testing is considered reliable evidence throughout the rest of the world," she said.
War Against Rape, an organization that helps rape victims attacked the CII deliberations.
"A DNA test in rape cases is vital to collect concrete evidence, because if a woman is drugged or unconscious while she is raped, it makes her unable to recognize her tormentors," organization Director Rukhsana Siddiqi told UPI Next.
She cited a 2008 case of a 19-year-old woman who was drugged then raped by four guards at the tomb of Pakistani founder Quaid-i-Azam in Karachi.
"We helped police investigate the case and arranged DNA tests, which proved that four guards were involved in the crime," Siddiqi said.
The victim was unable to recognize her attackers so DNA was the only way to identify them, Siddiqi said.
"The entire staff of the mausoleum comprising 250 employees was implicated in the case. It was necessary to bring the real rapists to book. So we arranged the DNA test."
"Semen specimens of three guards matched with the semen specimens collected from the woman. Those rapists were put behind the bars on the basis of DNA testing."
Within 10 days of the reported CII ruling, the Sindh provincial Parliament passed a non-binding resolution calling for DNA testing to be made mandatory in rape investigations and trials.
"Our party has condemned the declaration and passed a resolution in support of the scientific test. I don't know why the ulema [religious scholars] have opposed DNA tests in rape cases. It helps survivors of rape get justice," Pakistan Peoples Party member and Speaker Shehla Raza told UPI Next.
"Our party is committed to make DNA tests mandatory in rape investigations, and to making the test free because most of victims can't afford costly tests. At present police are not including DNA tests," she said.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan recorded 827 reported cases of rape in 2011.