Pakistan’s Cabinet on Thursday approved two ordinances, introducing stricter punishments for rapists, including chemical castration, and setting up of special courts for rape trials, Dawn reported. The ordinances were approved in-principle by the Federal Cabinet on Tuesday.
“As [the] world marks the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, the PTI-led [Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led] government in Pakistan is all set to promulgate historic anti-rape legislation to set up special courts for rape and other sexual offences against women and children,” a statement issued by the country’s Ministry of Law and Justice said.
The two ordinances are the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Ordinance, 2020, and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020. The legislations are in line with the country’s constitutional guarantees as well as the international treaties it has signed, Geo News reported.
“This is an important moment in Pakistan’s legislative history, and [for] the protection of rights of women, girls and children across the country,” the ministry said, according to Dawn. It added that that Law Minister Farogh Naseem had “worked extensively” to finalise the legislation over the course of this month.
The legislation will now be placed before the Cabinet for final approval before being sent to President Arif Alvi for promulgation. The ordinances then need to be submitted to Parliament for ratification in a span of 90 days.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, will amend Section 375 of the Pakistan Penal Code to provide a new definition of “rape”, extending the term to women of all ages and men under the age of 18 years. Under the current Pakistani laws, it is considered rape when a woman below 15 years of age engages in sex, without or without consent.
For first or repeated offenders, the concept of chemical castration has also been introduced in the ordinance “mainly as a form of rehabilitation, and subject to consent”. The law minister said an offender could be subjected to chemical castration that would last either “for some time or for life”.
The Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Ordinance, 2020, will lead to the establishment of special courts and the creation of anti-rape crisis cells to ensure quick registration of the first information report, medical examination, forensic analysis, among others.
It would also abolish the “inhumane and degrading” two-finger virginity test during medico-legal examinations and ban cross-examination of the rape complainants by the accused. It will also provide protection to the complainants and their families and establish in-camera trial proceedings.
A public reporting mechanism would also be set up and data of sex offenders would be maintained by the National Database & Registration Authority, an independent agency in the country.
The legislation comes in the wake of an incident involving the alleged rape of a woman and her minor daughter in Sindh’s Kashmore district. Pakistan Prime Minister had announced that the government would bring a “stringent and holistic anti-rape ordinance closing all loopholes” in the earlier laws.