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Parallel Legal Systems

Criminalizing Sexuality: Zina Laws as Violence against Women in Muslim Contexts

March, 2010
Ziba Mir Hosseini

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Abstract: Islamic legal tradition treats any sexual contact outside a legal marriage as a crime. The main category of such crimes is zina, defined as any act of illicit sexual intercourse between a man and woman. In the late twentieth century, the resurgence of Islam as a political and spiritual force led to the revival of zina laws and the creation of new offences that criminalize consensual sexual activity and authorize violence against women. Activists have campaigned against these new laws on human rights grounds.

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