Govt to set up special courts through new anti-rape ordinance | Pakistan Today

Govt to set up special courts through new anti-rape ordinance

ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Thursday got two ordinances passed from the Cabinet Committee on Disposal of Legislative Cases (CCLC) to ensure swift and harsher punishment of convicted rapists and sex offenders by setting up special courts for sexual offences against women and children.

Ministry of Law and Justice 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’.

An official handout issued by the ministry said the CCLC greenlit the ordinances, which the federal cabinet had approved in principle on Wednesday.

Terming the passage of the ordinances as ‘important moment’ in Pakistan’s legislative history for the protection of rights of women, girls and children across the country, the ministry said 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 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.

The Draft Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Ordinance, 2020 would provide the establishment of special courts; creation of Anti-Rape Crisis Cells to be headed by concerned commissioners/deputy commissioners, who will ensure prompt registration of the first information report, medical examination, forensic analysis, etc.

The ordinance also seeks to abolish the ‘inhumane and degrading ‘two-finger virginity test’ for rape victims during medico-legal examinations, and eliminating any attachment of probative value to it.

The ordinance would also bring an end to 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. The trials would be in-camera in future and protection for the victim and witnesses would be ensured.

The ordinance would allow the use of modern devices during investigation and trial while the provision of legal assistance to the victims through the Legal Aid and Justice Authority would be ensured.

This ordinance also outlines the creation of independent support advisers to the victims and appointment of special prosecutors for the special courts would also be made. An investigation by joint investigation teams headed by district police officers; and creation of a special committee on a pro-bono basis to ensure overall implementation of the law would be made.

Rules would 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’ would be registered through NADRA; while a public reporting mechanism would be in place.

Meanwhile, under the Draft Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, a substitution of the existing Section 375 of the Pakistan Penal Code has been proposed 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; while 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’.

Mian Abrar

The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He can be reached at [email protected]