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A welcome amendment

A welcome amendment

Even if a woman survives being raped in Pakistan and makes the Herculean effort to get a case filed against her rapist and finally into court. She then faces further harassment at the hands of the legal profession as they seek to blacken her character. The quality or veracity of the evidence presented on her behalf to prove her case may be tainted or be valueless due to the negligence or the incompetence of the police, and even if she wins her case, her life will be forever blighted. Rape is a common crime with many instances of rape going unreported, often because of the shame felt by the victim or, just as often, the shame felt by their families. Some of that may be mitigated by a welcome amendment to the anti-rape laws, which now brings into law the use of DNA profiling as evidence. This was long overdue.

The use of DNA tests have proved crucial in bringing convictions in rape cases in Western nations for many years.

The Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice has taken up The Anti-Rape Laws (Criminal Amendment) Bill 2014 tabled by the PPP Senator Sughra Imam. This will enable modern scientific methodologies to be employed in cases of sexual assault. The committee made another important amendment as well — the character assassination of victims in the course of a trial is now banned.

Taken together, these amendments go some way in clearing the legal minefield that awaits any rape victim seeking justice. Amending legislation is only half the battle. Police procedures in respect of gathering evidence must be improved and the necessary funding found to set up in each province a unit where DNA testing can be conducted in secure conditions. On a less positive note, the same committee deferred a bill relating to the harassment of women in the workplace, another area where Pakistan lags behind the developed world. Changing cultural attitudes to rape is going to be far more difficult than amending the law, but no less essential if women are to find justice for themselves in future.

Express Tribune

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