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.