The government has approved two ordinances aimed at awarding stricter punishment for offenders including chemical castration and hanging, but not publically, to curb the increasing rape incidents against women and children in the country.
The prime minister has earlier called for the public hanging of rapists but now the concept of chemical castration is being introduced ‘mainly as a form of rehabilitation’. This means that the punishment will only be given with the consent of the convict and at the discretion of the court. If the convict disapproves, then he will be prosecuted under criminal laws which include the death penalty. A convict cannot be forced to undergo castration or else he could challenge the punishment in court.
The government has termed the anti-rape legislation ‘historic’ but it will only be a matter of time before it comes to parliament for deliberation. The legislation has changed the definition of rape and has extended the term to women of all ages. Opposition leaders have decried that the age of consent is being reduced to 13 which makes minors more vulnerable. Thus it is imperative that the ordinance is discussed before it is enacted into law.
The ordinance will lead to the establishment of special courts and anti-rape crisis cells to ensure quick registration of FIRs, medical examination, forensic analysis, among others. It will abolish the degrading ‘two-finger virginity tests’ and restrict cross-examination of the victim by the accused during trial. It also provides protection to the rape victims and their families through in-camera trials. The steps should be welcomed and could lead to speedy trials and the provision of justice.
The government has decided to set up a registry of sex offenders through NADRA and a public reporting mechanism. This is vital to identify habitual and convicted offenders who could pose a threat to society. This was seen in the case of convicted pedophile SohailAyaz who managed to secure a high-profile job in a government department despite having a criminal record just by simply not disclosing it.
The problem that the government will face lies in the implementation of the proposed law. Chemical castration is a complicated and costly process and is not a quick fix either. It is imperative that investigations are improved to ensure speedy justice to rape victims. Rape is a social evil that can be resolved in the blink of an eye and while leaders want to toughen laws, they must not pass laws that could aggravate the situation.