Rape laws

 
November 28, 2020

According to reports that have been reaching the press and the public, the federal cabinet has decided to introduce new laws on rape, gang-rape, and sodomy, which will now also be counted as an...

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According to reports that have been reaching the press and the public, the federal cabinet has decided to introduce new laws on rape, gang-rape, and sodomy, which will now also be counted as an offence equivalent to rape through an ordinance. In the first place, it is unclear why laws as sensitive as these with some provisions that are debatable, should be dealt with through an ordinance, which under the law stays in place only 120 days and is not debated by members of parliament. The role of parliament is after all to debate measures proposed to discuss the pros and cons and therefore make it easier to decide what would be most beneficial for the country and its people.

Pakistan already has a series of laws which deal with rape, gang-rape, and also child marriage or forcible remarriage. There are also issues such as the age of consent, with religious scholars also contesting what the age of marriage should be in terms of Islamic provisions and the law of Pakistan. While there is no doubt that some of the provisions introduced are well-thought-out, we also need to consider why new laws are needed in the first place. Surely the most important thing would be to introduce measures to ensure we have a higher rate of conviction for rape offenders. Currently, only four percent of those accused of rape are convicted and of these 97 percent later have their sentences reduced or acquitted. This figure means that the current laws do not act as they should. In this situation, it is doubtful whether new measures such as chemical castration, or any such harsher penalties, will in any way be beneficial.

We need to also consider the dichotomy between the laws which exist and the differences between them, with one contradicting the other. These need to be sorted out. And only parliament can achieve this, so that there is a standard acceptable law that reaches across Pakistan and also deals with issues such as child pornography and related matters. The issue of special courts or special investigators is also something that needs to be discussed. In the past, special courts or tribunals have not proved to be very successful. What we need is special police officials who are trained to investigate rape cases using DNA evidence, which is now the standard across the world.

Fortunately, the cabinet has suggested and put in writing an end to the two-finger examination for determining rape, which is humiliating and traumatic for the rape survivor/victim. It is also vital that the new law protect the victim and not hurt her or him further through the processes that are used. Many survivors/victims back away from cases after facing the kind of crude onslaught they come under, and in some cases because of threats made by culprits who may be influential. We also need to think about reform, or restorative justice. And all this must be done keeping in mind that this is a crime of power rather than one of lust.



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