12 Geo. Immigr. L.J. 379 (1997-1998)
Women Persecuted under Islamic Law: The Zina Ordinance in Pakistan as a Basis for Asylum Claims in the United States; Polk, Michael F.

handle is hein.journals/geoimlj12 and id is 389 raw text is: WOMEN PERSECUTED UNDER ISLAMIC LAW:
THE ZINA ORDINANCE IN PAKISTAN AS A
BASIS FOR ASYLUM CLAIMS IN
THE UNITED STATES
MICHAEL F. POLK*
I. INTRODUCTION
In 1979, the government of Pakistan adopted the Zina Ordinance to bring
the Penal Code into accord with Islamic principles.' Under this ordinance,
women who report having been raped must prove that the intercourse was
without consent. If unable to prove this lack of consent, they can be charged
with fornication. As a result, women are less likely to report rape, and if they
do, may eventually seek asylum for their ensuing gender-based persecution.
The problem in assessing such asylum claims is the difficulty in showing
persecution based on one of the five enumerated grounds to confer refugee
status.2 In light of guidelines published by the Immigration and Naturaliza-
tion Service (INS),3 the general trend appears to be that asylum claims by
women fleeing violence will be based on persecution on account of member-
ship in a social group.4
There is, however, an alternative asylum option, overlooked by the INS
and commentators, for women persecuted under the tenants of Islamic Law.
Asylum claims for these women should always include assertions of persecu-
tion on account of religion. The Zina Ordinance in Pakistan is an official
statute derived from the Quran and teachings of Islam.5 Persecution perpetu-
ated by the state or society because of this ordinance can then be character-
* B.S., University of Nebraska at Omaha, 1987; M.A., Bellevue University, 1994; M.B.A., Bellevue
University, 1995; J.D. Candidate, University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law, May 1998. This paper
was written to partially fulfill the requirements of a refugee and asylum course taught at the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law. I would like to thank Professor Anna Williams Shavers for her
insightful, innovative, and superior instruction in bringing me toward a clearer understanding of refugee
and asylum law and policy.
i. See United States Department of State, Pakistan Country Report on Human Rights Practices for
1996, released by the Bureau of Democracy,.Human Rights, and Labor, Jan. 30, 1997 (visited Dec. 1,
1997) <http://state.gov/www/global/human-rights/1996-hrp-report/pakistan.html>.
2. One aspect of attaining refugee status is that persecution or a well founded fear of persecution must
be on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion.... INA
§ 101(a)(42), 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(Supp. 1997).
3. Phyllis Coven, Memorandum, Considerations for Asylum Officers Adjudicating Asylum Claims
for Women (Office of International Affairs, May 26, 1995).
4. See Pamela Goldberg, U.S. Law and Women Asylum Seekers: Where Are They and Where Are They
Going?, 73 INTERP. REL. 889, 897 (1996).
5. Asifa Quraishi, Her Honor: An Islamic Critique of the Rape Laws Of Pakistan From a Woman
Sensitive Perspective, 18 MICH. J. INT'L L. 287, 293-95 (1997).

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