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Pakistan’s New Anti-Rape Ordinance Will Help Tackle Sex Crimes

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On December 15, President Arif Alvi signed the new anti-rape ordinance, after it was approved by federal cabinet last month. Now the government has 120 days to take this ordinance into parliament and get a majority vote to make it a law. Under the new ordinance, the government has made the punishments harsher for both the convicted rapist, and for police officers and public servants in case they’re found guilty of not doing their duty.

Under the new ordinance, special rapid courts will be established across the country for rape cases; the special courts will complete the case within four months. Furthermore, the government will establish a Prime Minister’s Anti-Rape Crisis Cell, which will be bound to conduct a medico-lego checkup of the rape victim within six hours of the incident. One of the most important parts of this ordinance is that the government – with the help of NADRA – will establish a National Register for Sex Offenders, meaning the state will have proper data of sex offenders and former rape suspects, to help the police in the investigation. No such register was available previously. Moreover, the identity of the victim will be kept secret, under the new ordinance, and revealing the identity would be a punishable offence.

The most critical point of the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Ordinance 2020 and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 is the inclusion of chemical castration of the offender. Although this has been celebrated by different parts of the society, Amnesty International has expressed its concerns about the inclusion of chemical castration punishment for repeated rape offenders. The process involves an injection to lower testosterone levels. “Forced chemical castrations would violate Pakistan’s international and constitutional obligations to prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments. Punishments like this will do nothing to fix a flawed criminal justice system,” says AI South Asia campaigner Rimmel Mohydin.

However, the law minister Farogh Naseem has said that ‘the concept of chemical castration has been introduced mainly as a form of rehabilitation, and is subject to the consent of the convict.’ The minister further said that under international law it is mandatory to take the consent of the convict before castrating him. As per the minister, if the convict would not agree to castration, the court would deal with him in accordance with the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), under which he could be sentenced to up to 25 years in jail. He, however, clarified that it is up to the court, as the judge can order chemical castration or the punishment under the PPC.

Furthermore, the new ordinance is different from the old law as it substitutes the existing section 375 of the PPC with a new provision with a new definition of rape, extending to females of all ages and male victims under the age of 18 years. Also, the new ordinance has also included the offence of gang rape in the proposed law. One of the major amendments in the ordinance is the end of the ‘two-finger test’ for the female victims, to check whether she was sexually active or not. After the approval from the cabinet last month, Minister for Human Rights, Shireen Mazari said, “It includes an expansive definition of rape, the establishment of special courts, anti-rape crisis cells, protection of victims and witnesses, the prohibition of the ‘two-finger’ test etc.”

Many experts believe the new ordinance to be a change for the better in Pakistan’s anti-rape laws, as it includes the aspects like hiding the victim’s identity, special courts, sex offenders’ register, and speedy trails. However, the inclusion of chemical castration is debated, as some observers say that it would lead to more psychological issues of the offender, while others believe that it has reduced the chances of rape crime. As per a Pakistani physician Dr Shehshah Syed, “I don’t think it [chemical castration] will cause any big problems when it comes to physical health, but psychologically, the person will suffer from acute anger and depression.”

Meanwhile, in an article in the Journal of Korean Medical Science, Jong Ying Lee and Kang Su Cho wrote that “both surgical and chemical castration undoubtedly reduce sexual interest, sexual performance, and sexual reoffending.” The article further says that surgical castration reportedly produces definitive results, even in repeat pedophilic offenders. “Chemical castration using LHRH agonists reduces circulating testosterone to very low levels, and also results in very low levels of recidivism despite the strong psychological factors that contribute to sexual offending,” the researchers wrote.

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Naya Daur