rape laws

The federal cabinet today approved two anti-rape ordinances. The ordinances “change the definition of rape”. The ordinances also approved harsher punishments for rapists, including chemical castration and hanging as amendments to existing anti-rape laws.

The meeting was headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan, who also discussed the restricting of PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) and the Rs1 trillion plan for Karachi, which is expected to address basic infrastructural and other issues.

The Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Ordinance 2020 and Pakistan Penal Code Ordinance 2020 is revolutionary as it includes terms such as “transgender” and “gang-rape” for the first time in the country’s history. The proposed law also prohibits the archaic and controversial “two-finger” test administered on rape victims by doctors that involves testing the laxity of vaginal muscles with fingers. The demeaning test has been prohibited in the new ordinance.

“The federal cabinet has approved anti-rape ordinances which change the basic definition of rape and suggest severe punishment for gang rape and hanging of rapists,” said Information Minister Shibli Faraz in a post-cabinet meeting press conference.

He announced that the ordinances would be finalized in a week.

Human Rights Minister Dr. Shireen Mazari said in a tweet: “Cabinet Committee on Disposal of Legislative Cases (CCLC) will now finalize (the ordinances) and it should become operational in the next few days. It includes an expansive definition of rape, the establishment of the special court, anti-rape crisis cell, protection of victims and witnesses, and prohibition of the two-finger test,” she said.

Mr. Faraz said Prime Minister Khan, after taking serious notice of a recent rape incident of a mother and her daughter in Sindh, had asked Law Minister Farogh Naseem to prepare comprehensive ordinances encompassing fast-track trial of the accused, comprehensive definition of rape, the inclusion of new offenses and strict punishments for convicted rapists.

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The minister said as the ordinances were of great importance and involved punitive actions against rapists, it was forwarded to the law division for further improvement.

He hoped that the initiative would significantly reduce the country’s number of rape incidents by creating deterrence against society’s offense.

While talking to Dawn, Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry termed approval of the ordinances a landmark achievement of the government by addressing one of society’s gravest issues. He said the ordinances also permitted chemical castration of habitual rapists. This sort of punishment was first hinted at by the prime minister when he said such punishment was being awarded to habitual rapists in developed countries.

Will the new anti-rape laws work?

The definition of sexual violence as defined by the WHO (2002: 149) is: Any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.

According to a study titled ‘Overview of the Worldwide Best Practices for Rape prevention and for Assisting Women Victims of Rape’ conducted by the ‘Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs’ in the EU; the prevention of rape entails the development of practices that intervene in the causal pathways leading to rape. To build the most effective strategy to prevent rape and assist victims of rape, it is necessary to identify the causes of rape. There are a variety of approaches.

The UN (2010a) treats violence against women, including rape, as a form of ‘gender-based discrimination’ as well as a violation of women’s human rights.’ The WHO (2002: 12) uses an ‘ecological model’ that distinguishes nested levels of societal, community, relationship, and individual. Brown and Walklate (2012) find that rape is a consequence of gender inequalities in power and an absence of effective state power to sanction offenders.

While the Federal government has taken steps in mitigating the absence of effective state power to sanction offenders, the progress in tackling gender inequalities has been slow to stagnant.

The criminal justice system aims to deter people from committing a crime by deterrence, punishment, and rehabilitation. But most rapists are acquitted. The deterrent effect of potential punishment is only likely to occur if rapists were to be convicted in the courts. This would require reforms of the criminal justice system so that rapists were more usually convicted than not.

The prevention of rape also requires changing men’s minds so that they do not want to rape. For this purpose, education, media, and culture are an appropriate focus of preventative action. An important priority is looking after the victims-survivors. The hurt and harms from rape are very considerable and often long-lasting.

Read more: Is chemical castration a solution to end sexual violence against women in Pakistan?

It is possible to substantially mitigate the effects of rape by good practices, speeding healing, recovery, and regaining a place in society. This is potentially offered by specialized support services, specialized practices within health services, and special attention (re)gaining an economic livelihood. How are appropriate changes to policies to be made? This requires the mobilization of relevant actors. But does it also require gender-balance in each of the relevant domains of decision-making, from the police to peace-keepers to parliamentarians?

The approach taken here is that all of these sites of intervention are potentially significant. There have been initiatives in almost all policy fields to address an issue relevant to reducing rape and mitigating its consequences. This adds a further dimension to policy development and implementation, strategic planning, and coordination at international, national, and local levels.

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There is consensus in the field that violence against women, of which rape is a particularly serious form, is a consequence of gender inequality and contributing to that inequality. The structural context (Galtung, 1996) is part of the cause of harm named violence. This means that most, if not all, social institutions contribute in some way to rape by actions or inactions. Actions and inactions contribute to an environment that is conducive to rape. Thus a full program of policy actions to address rape would address each of these gendered institutions conducive to rape. Typically, researchers and practitioners have specialized in different aspects of the “rape system,”; but it is best to think of these as interconnected.

Laws that prevent rape have not been given enough attention.

Issue is not strong or punitive state but a gender-sensitive state

The range of institutions includes the state, as the source of law and justice and the source of strategic planning, coordination and funding of services; the economy, which is complexly entwined with vulnerabilities to rape; culture, education, and media, where myths about rape are propagated or challenged; the health system that may or may not support victims’ recuperation; and the research system, usually based in universities, which may or may not offer scientifically based advice on which practices work to prevent rape and mitigate its consequences. The absence of effective sanctioning of offenders in law and the criminal justice system so that rapists can act with greater or lesser degrees of impunity is an important concern.

Punitive measures such as laws against rape are effective in providing justice but more needs to be done to mitigate the causal effects of rape.

This absence can be especially significant in conflict zones, where informal interventions to sanction offenders may also be absent. This is not just an issue of a strong or punitive state (Galtung, 1996; Bumiller, 2008) but of a gender-sensitive state that responds to the concerns articulated by victim-survivors of rape and by relevant expert groups.

Gender inequalities in the economy also need addressing

Gender inequalities in the economy are relevant since it is hard to recuperate from rape without a stable livelihood source. In the case of domestic rape, where sexual abuse may be part of a pattern of coercive control by an intimate partner, economic inequalities are complexly entwined with vulnerabilities to rape and other violence. Rape has consequences for the economy since the physical and mental injuries have detrimental effects on the victim’s employment capacity.

Read more: Sindh Police ASI uses daughter as bait to catch Kashmore gang rape culprit

The gender imbalance in decision-making means that women’s experiences and interests are under-represented when crucial decisions are made in professional bodies, parliaments, and conflict zones.

Gender inequalities in the governance and practice of culture, education, and media have implications for the likelihood that these institutions propagate rather than contest rape myths, which affect juries making verdicts of guilt and innocence in trials.

The health system is a potentially important source of assistance to victims of rape, assisting them to recover, but if poorly organized, may contribute to the problem. Laws need to take into account the plight of rape victims after the crime has taken place also.

The new ordinance may be effective in taking effective punitive measures against rapists, but more needs to be done to ensure that the causes of rape are addressed, and the victims of rape are taken care of.

GVS News Desk

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