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Cabinet body okays anti-rape ordinances

Cabinet body okays anti-rape ordinances

ISLAMABAD: The Cabinet Committee for Disposal of Legislative Cases on Thursday approved two ordinances to introduce harsher punishments for sex offenders including chemical castration and setting up special courts for rape cases.

According to a statement issued by the law ministry, the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Ordinance, 2020 and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 introduce the concept of chemical castration mainly as a “form of rehabilitation”.

“The two state of the art pieces of legislation are in line with the Constitutional guarantees of Pakistan, as also the International treaties,” it read.

These laws provide mechanisms to curb sexual abuse crimes against women and children.

Sharing the salient features of the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Ordinance, the ministry said special courts would be established to conduct trial in rape cases.

Anti-rape crisis cells headed by a commissioner or deputy commissioner will be set up to ensure prompt registration of an FIR, medical examination and forensic analysis.

The law abolishes the inhumane and degrading two-finger virginity testing for rape victims during medico-legal examination and eliminates any attachment of probative value to it.

The ordinance also bars the cross-examination of a rape survivor by the accused. Only judge and the accused’s lawyers will be able to cross-examine the survivor.

The proposed law also includes in-camera trials, witness protection for the victim and witnesses, use of modern devices during investigation and trial, legal assistance to the victims through the Legal Aid and Justice Authority and appointment of independent support advisers for the victims.

Special prosecutors for the special courts will also be appointed. Investigation will be conducted by joint investigation teams headed by district police officers. A special committee will formed on a pro bono basis to ensure overall implementation of the law. Rules will be issued by the prime minister on the recommendation of the special committee for issuing medico-legal examination and investigation and prosecution guidelines based on the latest modern techniques and devices. Data of sex offenders registered through NADRA will be maintained. A public reporting mechanism will also be devised.

The salient features of Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance includes the substitution of the existing section 375 of the PPC with a new provision so as to provide new definition of “rape”, which would extend to females of all ages and male victims under the age of 18 year.

In addition to rape, the offence of gang rape has also been considered to be addressed.

In respect of first or repeated offenders, the concept of chemical castration has been introduced mainly as a form of rehabilitation and “subject to consent”.

Sindh High Court Bar Association President Salahuddin Ahmed told The Express Tribune that in principle, he did not agree with the concept of setting up new special courts.

However, he expressed his satisfaction on the expanded definition of rape.

“I think the provision regarding chemical castration for repeated offenders is mainly meant for media and public consumption and is unlikely to have any real effect”, he said.

The law ministry in its statement also said that as the world was marking the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, the PTI-led government was all set to promulgate “historic anti-rape legislation to set up special courts for rape and other sexual offences against women and children”.

Newspaper: The Express Tribune

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