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Harsh Punishments For Rapists Useless Without Reforms In Justice System: Fawad

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Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry has said the government should reform Pakistan’s criminal justice system to effectively tackle rape cases instead of announcing harsher sentences for rapists.

In an address in the National Assembly, the government needs to improve the justice system that comprises police, court, jail, and medico-legal procedure to curb sexual violence in society.

Fawad said the conviction rate in rape cases was less than 5 per cent that means most of the suspects in rape cases go scot-free. He said if the state was not able to nab most culprits then what purpose would strict sentences serve.

In rape cases, the government must train more women officers to investigate such incidents, he said, adding that his ministry was also working on making cheap forensic kits to improve the medico-legal department of investigation agencies.

In an allusion to remarks of Lahore CCPO Umar Sheikh, the federal minister said the society also needs to keep the practice of victim-blaming in check.

PM proposes public hangings:

After days of silence on the gang-rape of a woman on Lahore motorway that shook the nation, Prime Minister Imran Khan has proposed the public hangings and chemical castration of rapists to curb sexual violence in Pakistan.

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While talking about the gang-rape of a woman in front of her children last week, PM Imran said: “They [rapists] should be given exemplary punishments. In my opinion, they should be hanged at the chowk [intersection].”

However, experts and rights activists tend to disagree with what the prime minister has presented as the solution to the problem. Dr Nida Kirmani, who is a sociologist, responded that the announcement by the PM ‘misses the point that all men are socialised to a greater or lesser extent to be capable of such acts’.

“The idea that hanging or castrating a rapist is the solution makes it seem as if those who commit these crimes are monsters who are physically unable to control their urges,” she tweeted.

Low conviction rate and rape culture:

Instead of coming up with stopgap solutions to placate the public, the government needs to address the root causes of sexual violence. The patriarchal mindset prevalent in Pakistan society reduces women’s consent to that of a sexual object and also dehumanises them– a major reason that often leads to rape.

Similar observations were made by a committee formed by the Indian government in the aftermath of the Delhi bus rape in 2012. It had said: ‘Chemical castration fails to treat the social foundations of rape which is about power and sexually deviant behaviour.”

Moreover, a harsher sentence could be effective in case of isolated incidents, but in Pakistan, rape is embedded in its male-dominated culture that can not be addressed until structural reforms are made at all levels.

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Naya Daur