Pakistan approves strict anti-rape law

Pakistan’s president has approved a new anti-rape law that includes setting up special courts to expedite rape cases and chemical castration of serial rapists.

Legislation, which must be passed by parliament for enactment, requires courts to close hearings on alleged perpetrators and issue rulings within four months. It also prohibits the identification of rape victims and will register national sex offenders.

Rape cells will also be set up to ensure that victims receive a specialist medical examination within 6 hours of the incident being reported. Officials who neglect to investigate rape cases could face up to three years in prison.

The move sparks outrage over a woman’s gang rape in front of her children during a roadside riot in Lahore in September. This led to protests when the investigating police officer accused the victim of traveling alone.

Prior to the new law, rape cases could drag on for years, mainly due to poor investigation and poor legislation, making it difficult for victims to come forward to share their concerns.

While rights groups celebrated the law, Amnesty International expressed concern about the inclusion of chemical-related penalties for rape offenders.

Rameel Mohi-ud-Din, an Amnesty International South Asia campaigner, has accused the government of trying to “divert attention” from the root causes of sexual violence in Pakistan.

He said: “Forcible chemical casting would violate the international and constitutional obligations of Pakistan to end violence and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Such punishments fix the system of innocent justice. Nothing to do.

The new law comes months after Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to address loopholes in existing legislation to provide justice for rape victims. Khan and his cabinet approved the law last month, and the president signed into law enacting it on Tuesday.

The government now has 120 days left for Parliament to approve the measure and it is permanently transferred to law.

In Pakistan, nearly a thousand women are killed each year in so-called “honor killings” for violating conservative principles of love and marriage.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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