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May 8, 2021

Flawed law

 
May 8, 2021

The Women Lawyers Forum, a component of the Women's Action Forum, has identified dozens of flaws in the ordinances against rape and crime passed by the PTI government in 2020. Regarding rape, in the first place, the WLF points out that in this ordinance, as well as in the one pertaining to crime, there is a great deal of overlap with the Pakistan Penal Code, as well as other aspects of the constitution. It also asks why, when a democratically elected parliament exists, it is necessary to use ordinances to pass laws rather than allow parliament to debate and discuss them.

Aside from these important factors, the reality is that we have plenty of laws guarding against offences of various kinds. However, when there are too many laws that are not implemented and there is a crossover or overlap between them, there is bound to be confusion. This appears to be the case here too. The WLF also points out that there is confusion over the crisis cells set up for women and the method of reporting to them. Ensuring justice to rape survivors means empowering them to give a full account of their experience and the details so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice. Survivors also need therapy and support after the crime. So, while it seems that the new laws are concerned about this problem, in fact they need to be more than mainly optics designed to signal how much the government cares about the situation of rape and other crimes.

In addition, the WLF points out that mistakes have been made in identifying what kind of crime rape is. The idea of chemically castrating a rapist is flawed, because rape is not an act of sexual gratification, but an act designed to exhibit a man's power over a woman and his ability to torture her in any way possible. At the present time, at least four women are raped daily in Pakistan and gang-rape is also far higher than in other countries in the region, apart from India, where New Delhi is seen as the rape capital of the world. The question of laws and the manner in which they are put in place needs to be studied carefully. It is pointless to keep repeating the same clauses in one law after the other and then failing to fulfil them. Instead, the matter has to be taken up in a manner where it can make a real difference to lives and allow women as well as other victims of crime feel safer. It is best if parliament is able to debate these laws before they are passed, pointing out any deficiencies and possibly also discussing them at broader forums so that people – especially women – can have a real say in what laws go on to the statute books.