Pakistan approved a new anti-rape law Tuesday to allow for speedy trials and chemical castration of convicted serial offenders. The law will also create specialized rape courts designed to deal exclusively with rape and sexual assault cases.
President Arif Alvi approved the Anti-Rape Ordinance 2020 and said that it will “help expedite cases of sexual abuse against women and children.” Although the law will take effect immediately, parliament must ratify it within 120 days. Once in effect, victims can expect prompt investigations, and the government hopes it will encourage them to come forward in holding offenders accountable. Victim identities would be protected due to the stigma surrounding such crimes. Any government official proved to be negligent in carrying out an investigation would face a prison sentence of up to three years.
The new law would ensure the creation of a nationwide database listing all offenders’ names, hoped to expedite subsequent court proceedings against repeat offenders. Convicted offenders could also face the death penalty.
Amnesty International has called the new law “cruel and inhuman,” arguing that chemical castration will not fix a “flawed” system. South Asia Campaigner Rimmel Mohydin responded to the announcement of the new law:
Forced chemical castrations would violate Pakistan’s international and constitutional obligations to prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Punishments like this will do nothing to fix a flawed criminal justice system. Instead of trying to deflect attention, the authorities should focus on the crucial work of reforms that will address the root causes of sexual violence and give survivors the justice they deserve and the protection they need.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had proposed the legislation following a brutal rape that occurred in Lahore in September.
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