02 November 2018

Two attacks on blasphemy see laws being dismantled

The people vote in Ireland and top court rules in Pakistan as blasphmey laws undermined, while many jusrisdictions mantain punishment.

Two decisions in the past fortnight, one judicial the other legislative,  in Ireland and Pakistan see blasphemy laws being dismantled, despite many countries upholding such laws.

Acquittal and vote

Pakistan’s top court has overturned the death sentence of a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, while Ireland the people voted to end what supporters of the change call its ‘medieval’ law. On October 31, Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, of all charges. The landmark ruling ignited protests in several cities by opponents wanting to maintain the country’s strict blasphemy laws. Last week, 64.8 percent of the Irish population voted to remove blasphemy as an offence from the predominantly Catholic country's constitution.

Criminalisation of blasphemy

However, a number of European countries still maintain laws criminalising blasphemy, which is defined in the Oxford dictionary as ‘the action or offence of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; profane talk.’ Many faiths regard blasphemy as a crime against religion, particularly in Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa, as well as parts of Southeast Asia. It still carries the death penalty in countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Somalia, and remains a punishable crime in other countries around the world, including a number in Europe, with punishment ranging from fines to prison sentences.