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Senate panel approves changes in anti-rape laws

By: Qamar Zaman

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel on Tuesday approved amendments in the country’s anti-rape laws, supporting DNA profiling as crucial evidence during the investigation process.

The Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice, which took up `The Anti-Rape Laws (Criminal Amendment) Bill, 2014’ introduced by Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Sughra Imam, observed that modern scientific tools, including DNA profiling which is used as a vital tool globally in the investigation of sexual assault cases.

Delving into the debate on the legislation, former law minister Senator Farooq H Naek proposed an amendment in section 376, Act XLV of 1860 seeking a revision in the pre-set age bracket of the rape victims under the Pakistan Penal Code. In addition, the PPP lawmaker said that medical examination in cases of rape should only take place at government-run hospitals.

The body also approved an amendment in Article 151, Order X of 1984 (The Qanun-e-Shahadat Order, 1984) barring the character assassination of victims during the trial.

Supporting the amendment, PPP legal wizard Aitzaz Ahsan said that in some cases “people do not lodge rape cases fearing stigmatisation, and character assassination of their daughters.”
Naek pointed out that the amendment would also provide protection to sex-workers in the country, who under the current law have no legal protection.
Following the deliberation on the legislation, committee chairman Senator Muhammad Kazim Khan asked Sughra Imam to submit the bill, after incorporating the proposed amendments by the lawmakers.
Meanwhile, the panel deferred Haji Muhammad Adeel’s bill seeking the status of national language for a number of regional languages.
“Regional languages should be given space but not at the cost of the national language,” said Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz lawmaker Raja Zafarul Haq.

Opposing the proposal, Naek said that National Assembly has rejected a similar bill earlier. He added that “We have failed to promote Urdu as per the Constitution and it would further complicate the matter when five languages are added to the list.”

Though several members indirectly opposed the bill proposed by Adeel, PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan asked the chairman to defer the debate on the legislation.

The committee also deferred another constitutional amendment bill proposed by PPP Senator Raza Rabbani seeking reserved seats for labourers in the legislature.

Similarly, the panel also deferred “The Protection against Harassment of women at workplace (amendment) bill 2014,” for further discussion. The bill was moved by PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar.

Express Tribune