Chemical Castration, Sex Offender Registry in Pakistan's New Rape Law

The new anti-rape ordinance comes after months of nationwide outrage over a brutal gang rape and subsequent victim-shaming of a woman in Lahore.
Pallavi Pundir
Delhi, IN
December 16, 2020, 2:44pm
anti rape law pakistan motorway gang rape patriarchy misogyny protest women's rights
Hundreds of people took to streets across Pakistan in September to protest sexual violence against women and children in the country. Photo by Abdul Majeed/AFP

Rocked by intense protests after a violent gang rape in September, Pakistan’s president has approved a new anti-rape law that seeks to double down on sexual crimes against women and children in the country. Anti-Rape Ordinance 2020 will give speedy trials to women and children, create a national registry of sex offenders, give privacy to victims and survivors, and also allow chemical castration of repeat sex offenders. 

Advertisement

Moreover, the consent of the convict will not be taken for executing castration, the discretion of which will be held by the trial court judge. 

Pakistani President Dr. Arif Alvi signed the ordinance on Tuesday, Dec. 15. The decree also necessitates anti-rape cells to provide medical examinations within six hours of filing of a complaint. 

The president, on Dec. 15, tweeted in Urdu, “The ordinance will help expedite cases of sexual abuse against women and children. Special courts will be set up across the country to expedite trials and cases of rape suspects as soon as possible.”

“The ordinance prohibits the identification of rape victims and makes it a punishable offence,” he added. 

In September, the gang rape of a mother of three on a busy highway in Lahore sparked national outrage. The woman, who was driving home with her kids at night, was apprehended by unidentified “robbers”. They smashed her car window, dragged her to the nearby field, and raped her “at gunpoint.” They then ran away with cash and jewellery. According to local media, her children were made to watch. The rapists were soon apprehended and arrested. 

While the incident was enough to stir outrage, a senior police official’s remarks made matters worse. Lahore’s Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umar Shaikh, the chief investigator, shifted the blame to the survivor.

Advertisement

In the lead-up to the new ordinance, the country’s Cabinet Committee on Legislative Cases had proposed castration for first or repeat offenders, allowing for the penalty as a form of rehabilitation and subject to consent. However, national reports say that the consent of the convict was omitted from the bill. 

Reports show that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had been repeatedly demanding chemical castration since the incident came under international scanner. Khan had spoken out in response to the incident and said, “Those who are in first degree, they should be castrated and operated upon to disable them from repeating such crimes.”

Prime Minister Khan had further proposed a three-pronged strategy, starting with registration of sex offenders and paedophiles. He also called for hanging the offenders in public as a punishment for scarring the lives of the victims and their families. He, however, told the media that such forms of punishment would not be accepted by the global community, and would jeopardise its trade status with the European Union. 

Women’s rights activists in Pakistan had previously spoken to VICE World News about how the rapes indicate not just misogyny and a culture of sexual violence, but also the authorities’ unwillingness to either file a complaint, or follow through with giving justice. According to Karachi-based group War Against Rape, less than 3 percent of sexual assault or rape cases result in a conviction. 

Advertisement

“The woman was educated enough to know the helpline numbers and still she didn’t get any help. This shows how effective our state machinery is,” Nighat Dad, a prominent advocate and activist in Pakistan, previously told VICE World News. 

The ordinance awaits  parliamentary approval, until which it will only be valid for four months. The Pakistan government is also yet to release the text of the ordinance. Pakistani publication Dawn reported that the law ministry will frame rules for carrying out castration procedure. Additionally, the special courts will be required to wrap up cases within four months. The national registry of sexual offenders will also be established with the help of the National Database and Registration Authority.

Interestingly, the law will also make the police officials accountable. It will penalise those in the police and government with three years of jail time and impose fines if they show negligence while investigating cases or provide false information. 

Activists, however, have called the ordinance, especially the castration punishment, “useless and eyewash”. Sadia Bokhari of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan told Dawn that public hanging and castration do not guarantee the end of rapes. “Even in the most high-profile cases, the suspected rapists got off scot-free because of various loopholes, including out-of-court settlement with the victim’s family,” she stated. 

Follow Pallavi Pundir on Twitter.