Islamic law: Backing up forensic DNA evidence

Journal name:
Nature
Volume:
503,
Page:
342
Date published:
DOI:
doi:10.1038/503342b
Published online

Pakistan's leading Islamic guidance body, the Council of Islamic Ideology, recently declared that DNA profiling is inadequate as primary evidence for rape crimes and should be supported by other forms of evidence laid out in Islamic law — for example, a confession, or confirmation from four adult male eyewitnesses (see go.nature.com/myl1da).

The council's ruling is based on the inability of DNA testing to distinguish between forced and consensual sex. We hope, however, that it will be sufficiently flexible to accommodate DNA testing when it could be decisive — for example, in cases of child abuse, when geographical location precludes the presence of eyewitnesses, or when the rape victim is murdered.

Collaboration between forensic scientists and religious scholars would foster such flexibility by improving mutual understanding and facilitating more informed decision-making.

Rape crimes in Pakistan are currently not accountable to civil law, but are judged according to the 1979 Hudood Ordinance, which faces mounting criticism from human-rights organizations and moderate sectors of civil society. By diminishing the importance of DNA testing, the council seems to be endorsing the stance of the Hudood Ordinance.

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Affiliations

  1. Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi, Pakistan.

    • Mushtaq Hussain &
    • Ammara Mushtaq

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  1. Report this comment #61637

    Michael Garrick said:

    The thoughtful, provocative correspondence from Hussain & Mushtaq entitled ?Islamic law: Backing up forensic DNA evidence? relates how the Council of Islamic Idealogy declared that DNA profiling is inadequate for rape crimes and that other evidence is needed by Islamic law. The basis is that DNA testing does not distinguish between forced and consensual sex.
    When I (as the first local expert) taught the section on DNA fingerprinting for NY State Bar Association program on ?Forensic Evidence in Criminal Cases?, 14 October, 1988, the top local defense attorney quickly observed ?we can no longer try on identification; we must instead argue that intercourse was consensual?. Clearly the identity of an accused rapist needs to be verified and DNA evidence is very strong unless the accused has an identical twin.
    I suspect that the Council of Islamic Idealogy needs to understand what Mr. Boreanaz then recognized: With DNA evidence, the issue is no longer constrained to a confession or confirmation from four adult male eyewitnesses; it could instead be about physical evidence of forced sex. I believe that physicians in the time of Mohammed were acute enough observers to advise a court on such evidence. Surely modern Pakistani medicine has not become less effective since that time.
    Sincerely,
    Michael D. Garrick, Ph.D.
    Professor of Biochemistry and
    Professor of Pediatrics

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