This article has been written by Vijeta Mahara and has been curated by Yashasvi Kanodia from NMIMS Kirit P. Mehta School of Law.
The article is footed on the approval of a new rape law in Pakistan on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020 that allows speedy trials and chemical castration of serial offenders.The law also tends to create specialised courts exclusively designed to deal with the matters of rape and sexual abuses.However, it yet needs to be ratified by the parliament of Pakistan in 120 days.
The President Arif Alvi has approved the new anti-rape law and stated that it will help to expediate the cases of such offences against women and children and will encourage the victims to come forward against recognizing the offenders.
The Prime Minister Imran Khan has proposed the new legislation following the brutal rape incident in Sept. 2020, when a resident of France, was gang raped in front of her children in Lahore, beside a deserted motorway, which led to the wildfire protests in the city, later turning into a public roar due to the comment of a lead police investigator that the victim should not have travelled alone at night.
Highlights of the Ordinance:
Establishment of special courts to try cases of rape and sexual abuse against women and children.
Deadline of four months to conclude the trail.
Any officer negligent in the investigation of such offences could be punishable with 3 years in Prison.
National sex offenders registry.
Establishment of anti-rape units conducting medical examination of victim within 6 hours of complaint.
Death Penalty and chemical castration of repeat offenders and of those convicted in most brutal cases.
Chronicle of Rape Laws in Pakistan:
In the year 1979, Pakistan legislature made adultry and rape punishable offences under The offence of Zina with the punishments of fine, imprisonment and even stoning to death; however, it reinforced that there must be a concrete evidence for the same, being a witness who can testify or the rape deemed credible by Quazi.
In 2006, The Women Protection Bill was passed, which made consensual sex after marriage an offence punishable with imprisonment of 5 years and rape punishable with either death or imprisonment of 10-25 years and gangrape with death penalty or life imprisonment.
Then came the Criminal Law (Amendment) of 2016, the DNA test was now made compulsory for rape cases and sabotaging the work of police brought imprisonment of 1 year, it also had provisions for legal and medical aid for rape survivors, in-camera proceedings, privacy of victim’s identity, conclusion of trials under 3 months and if not concluded as such, want of direct directions from the High Court Chief Justice.
Rape Incidents in Pakistan:
Rape cases in Pakistan are mostly Institutionalized and implicit the plain approval of the state. In the year 2002, Mukhtaran Bibi, a 28 year old lady was ordered to be gang raped by the village council as her brother was alleged to have sexual relations with a girl from higher caste. In 2005, a woman was raped by the police officers as she didn’t bribe them to release her husband from prison. Shazia Khalid,who now stays in Canada and therefore, talks openly about these situations in Pakistan was raped during the presidency of Parvez Musharraf. In Multan, the panchayat ordered rape of a 16 year old girl in lieu of her brother’s conduct. A 13 year old Kainat was kidnapped and raped for 4 days and reporting the offence led to the murder of her brother, death sentence of elder members of the family and continuous threats from the rapists. In the Dera Gazi Khan area, Border Police Officers reportedly carried 5 girls forcefully from a picnic and raped them. A girl who married against the wishes of her family was raped by the dominant members of the Village Panchayat. And this torment is not only confined to females, even the boys are not safe. A 13 year old boy was intoxicated and sexually assaulted, the same day in Faisalabad, a 15 year boy was found dead and sexual assault was confirmed by the medical report. This is not enough, adding more to it, there is a culture called Bacha Bazi, justified as a cultural tradition in north west Pakistan which involves the sexual abuse of adolscent boys by older men. And the most recent incident that set the nation on fire was the brutal gang rape of a woman in front of her children.
In a country where reporting of a sexual offence leads to the death of the victim’s family members, and a constant threat to the life and security of the victim,there can be enormous serious consequences of harsh penalties. Moreover, the chronicles exhibit that about 70% of the rapes and sexual abuses are either done in police custodies, by the police officials and administrative officials or directly or indirectly sponsored by the state, hence, it would be better to amend a flawed system then to just keep building strident laws.
Since, it is an imminent fact that the laws are created for the betterment of the society and the penal implications must reflect a positive evolution, what can be the benefit of such a law that can divulge a negative impact on the aggrieved and the society as a whole. Any tough stance without modifying the distorted structures of legal and administrative system can even lead to the assassination of the victim in order to rub out the evidences. Secondly, any law in the direction of affecting criminals only is of no help to victims, as we all know that the death penalty for murder and even rarest of the rare rape cases, has not been able to put a stop on the occurrence of such crimes.
The development of rape laws and retribution should be backed up with data and case studies. The legislation of any country must make laws to strengthen women in a sense that the crimes related to rape and sexual abuse are not treated distictly from other crimes, as presently all of this directly or indirectly affects a woman only. A penalty should be there but in a way that it no more sabotages the ‘Dignity’ of a woman.