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Pakistan-Administered Kashmir Introduces Strong Sentences for Child Sex Offenders

FILE - A Pakistani Kashmiri youth holds Pakistani and Kashmiri flags as he walks past a banner featuring a photograph of Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, left, during a rally in Muzaffarabad, Sept. 13, 2019.

Pakistani administered Kashmir has tightened its law for people convicted of sexually abusing a minor, adding the death penalty, life imprisonment, or castration to the list of possible punishments. A minor in this case is anyone under the age of 16.

“Surgical castration shall be performed on the convict by an authorized surgeon and where the surgeon is of the opinion that surgical castration may cause death of the convict, the chemical castration of permanent nature shall be performed,” reads the draft of the amended law.

The amendment to the child protection law was approved by the cabinet of the regional government this week and is expected to be adopted by an overwhelming majority when the legislative assembly meets next week.

Under the amended law, allegations of child abuse would be investigated by a senior police official and the trial, once started, would have to be concluded within two months, unless the judge gives a Bonafide reason for a delay.

The mover of the bill, Ahmed Raza Qadri, Pakistani Kashmir’s minister for Disaster Management, told VOA the tightening of the law was necessary due to the high number of cases coming to light.

“I saw yesterday, someone had posted on Facebook a list of dozens of cases. They are happening all over,” he said.

Social welfare officials in Pakistan-administered Kashmir expressed hope that the new law would act as a deterrent and help lower the rate of crimes against children.

Israr Ahmed, the deputy director at the Social Welfare Department, said child abuse cases in the region often are not reported to the police due to the stigma associated with them. He said another reason for lack of reporting, however, may be that abusers, often have gotten away previously with little or no punishment.

Cases of child abuse are relatively common in this part of the world. Last December, civil society staged a large protest demanding the arrest of a schoolteacher who allegedly had abused a high school student.