Cabinet committee OKs ‘historic’ anti-rape legislation providing for harsh punishments

Statesman Report

ISLAMABAD: The Cabinet Committee on Disposal of Legislative Cases (CCLC) on Thursday approved two anti-rape ordinances aimed at setting up special courts for sexual offences against women and children and introducing harsher punishments for convicts.

The Ministry of Law and Justice also officially revealed the salient features of the two ordinances, which expand the definition of rape and introduce the concept of chemical castration "mainly as a form of rehabilitation".

"As [the] world marks the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, the PTI-led government in Pakistan is all set to promulgate historic anti-rape legislation to set up special courts for rape and other sexual offences against women and children," a statement issued by the ministry said.

According to the press release, a meeting of the CCLC chaired by Law Minister Farogh Naseem green-lighted the ordinances, which the federal cabinet had approved in principle on Wednesday. Information Minister Shibli Faraz had told a press conference the ordinances would be finalised in a week.

"This is an important moment in Pakistan’s legislative history, and [for] the protection of rights of women, girls and children across the country," the law ministry said, adding that Naseem had "worked extensively" to finalise the legislation with his team's assistance over the course of this month.

According to the ministry, the two "state-of-the-art pieces of legislation" — the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Ordinance, 2020 and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 — were in line with the constitutional guarantees  of Pakistan as well as international treaties the country has signed.

The laws, which according to the ministry provide mechanisms to arrest rape and sexual abuse crimes against women and children, will now be placed before the cabinet for final approval before being sent to the president to be promulgated. In the 90 days following that, the ordinances must be submitted to the parliament for ratification.

Salient features of the draft Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Ordinance, 2020:

Establishment of special courts

Creation of Anti-Rape Crisis Cells to be headed by commissioners or deputy commissioners, who will ensure prompt registration of the first information report, medical examination, forensic analysis, etc.

Abolishing the "inhumane and degrading" two-finger … test for rape victims during medico-legal examinations, and eliminating any attachment of probative value to it

Putting a bar on the cross-examination of a rape victim by the accused, thereby only allowing the judge and the accused’s lawyers to cross-examine the victim

In-camera trials

Protection for the victim and witnesses

Use of modern devices during investigation and trial

Provision of legal assistance to the victims through the Legal Aid and Justice Authority

Creation of Independent Support Advisers, who will provide support to the victims

Appointment of special prosecutors for the special courts

Investigation by joint investigation teams headed by district police officers

Creation of a special committee on pro bono basis to ensure overall implementation of the law

Rules to be issued by the prime minister upon the recommendation of the special committee for the purposes of issuing medico-legal examination and investigation and prosecution guidelines based on the latest modern techniques and devices

Maintenance of data of sex offenders' register through NADRA

A public reporting mechanism

Salient features of the draft Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020:

Substitution of the existing Section 375 of the Pakistan Penal Code with a new provision so as to provide a new definition of “rape”, which would extend to females of all ages and male victims under the age of 18 years

In addition to rape, the offence of gang-rape has also been "considered to be addressed"

In respect of first or repeated offenders, the concept of chemical castration has also been introduced "mainly as a form of rehabilitation, and subject to consent" qjuQQTYIpkmUjwO0fmpWxHJBBcUtnoRJBqr1/oIKHopbMksOV4x0y/em6f8q9NDVBBd8dI8+W2KtXRQQQIaP1QQQQB//9k=