–Rape victims to include not only women but also men, transgender persons
–Ordinance widens scope of crime, expedites trials through special courts
ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi on Tuesday signed the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Ordinance, 2020, broadening the definition of rape and establish special courts to expedite prosecution of rape cases.
A meeting of the federal cabinet in November approved in principle two anti-rape ordinances — the other being Pakistan Penal Code (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 — to expand the definition of penetration to include all its forms and list as possible rape victims not only women but also men and transgender persons.
The other changes include the establishment of special courts, anti-rape crisis cell, protection of victims and witnesses and prohibition of the intrusive two-finger test.
The new laws are introduced to award exemplary punishment to rapists, including chemical castration and hanging, but not in public.
Pakistan already has severe sentences for rape though they are seldom implemented: 10-25 years in prison for rape and life imprisonment or death for gang rape.
However, according to legal experts, rapists often escape punishment because police investigations into such incidents are ineffective and influenced by powerful members of society. Moreover, rampant corruption in the lower judiciary also helps rapists in seeking favourable verdicts.
The new regulations come after a recent spike in cases of sexual assault, drawing nationwide condemnation and demands for publicly hanging the rapist.
According to Minister for Information and Broadcast Senator Shibli Faraz, the new laws were introduced on the direction of Prime Minister Imran Khan who, after taking notice of a November rape incident of a mother and her daughter in Kashmore, had asked Minister for Law and Justice Farogh Naseem to prepare comprehensive ordinances in this regard.
The anti-rape ordinance would provide the creation of anti-rape crisis cells to be headed by concerned commissioners/deputy commissioners, who will also ensure prompt registration of the first information report (FIR), medical examination and forensic analysis within six hours of the incident. The prime minister himself will look over the establishment of these cells, the ordinance said.
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 counsel to cross-examine the victim. The trials would be in-camera in future and protection for the victim and witnesses would be ensured.
It would also 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.
Maintenance of data of repeated sex offenders’ would be registered through the National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) while a public reporting mechanism would be in place. It also prohibits the identification of rape victims and makes it a punishable offense.
Meanwhile, under the Pakistan Penal Code (Amendment) Ordinance, a substitution of the existing Section 375 of the PPC 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”.