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Pakistan Seeks To Ban Forced Marriage

(RFE/RL) February 13, 2007 -- Pakistan's ruling party introduced a bill today that would make forced marriages illegal.

Anyone found guilty of "coercing" or "compelling" a woman to marry could be fined and face three years in jail.

The bill would also end practices that prevent women from inheriting property.

The legislation is part of President Pervez Musharraf's policy of "enlightened moderation," which seeks to empower women and make Pakistan into a moderate Muslim nation.

Women in Pakistan often face discrimination and violence, particularly in rural areas.

The bill was submitted by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, the head of the Pakistan Muslim League. That party holds a majority in both houses of parliament.

The Pakistani parliament passed a bill late last year that made it much easier to prosecute men for committing rape. It was passed despite fierce opposition from hard-line Islamic groups.

(AP, Reuters, dpa)