Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is reported to have approved “in principle” a new law on “chemical castration” and hangings of rapists.
Local media Wednesday reported the draft anti-rape legislation, approved by the federal cabinet the previous day, would require fast-track investigation and trial of suspected sexual assailants.
Pakistani Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari explained in a statement that a cabinet committee has been tasked wih finalizing the “badly needed” law and “it should become operational in the next few days.”
Mazari said the law, once enacted, would require establishing special courts to deal with the crime of rape and setting up anti-rape “crisis cells” for protection of both victims and witnesses.
Mazari touted the proposed legislation in a tweet Wednesday that she issued in connection with the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women.
“Our anti rape law will be one more step forward. We are ensuring existing laws protecting women's rights & protecting ag violence are implemented effectively,” she said.
Pakistan has experienced a spike in incidents of rape over the past few years.
A serial killer raped a 7-year-old girl in the eastern city of Kasur in 2018 before murdering her. The crime drew nationwide condemnation and demands for publicly hanging the rapist.
A court later sentenced the man to death and he was executed inside a high-security jail because existing Pakistani laws do not allow public hangings.
In September, two men gang-raped a woman in front of her terrified children after her car ran out of fuel on a deserted highway near the eastern city of Lahore. A police manhunt led to the arrest of the assailants.
That incident renewed the debate on the severity of punishment to prevent sexual assaults. In a television interview at the time, Khan himself called for public hangings and chemical castration of rapists to deter the crime.
Under existing Pakistani laws, a convicted rapist faces a sentence of up to 25 years in prison or the death penalty. A gang-rape is punishable by death or life imprisonment.
Legal experts say, however, rapists often escape punishment because police investigations into such cases are ineffective and influenced by powerful members of the society. Moreover, rampant corruption in the lower judiciary also help rapists in seeking favorable verdicts.
The circumstances, critics say, often discourage women from seeking justice for fear of being shamed or persecuted by police or even their own relatives in Pakistan’s male-dominated and largely conservative society.