Pakistan passes first anti-rape bill

The Pakistani parliament passed the country’s first anti-rape bill on Wednesday, in a vote that saw most lawmakers supporting the tougher penalties.

The bill, which was proposed by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government, imposes death sentences for the most serious crimes of rape and grooming, which includes forcing a girl under the age of 18 to have sex. It also gives for prison sentences of up to life for grooming cases and in some cases for rape, as well as chemical castration for offenders under 18. The bill also provides the possibility of retrial if the police fail to act on such evidence as physical evidence that would allow evidence to be submitted to a higher court. The bill also prescribes a punishment of life imprisonment for a second offense.

Many opponents of the bill had previously argued that such punishments would be ineffective, saying that there were already strict punishments for similar crimes and that the increase in prisons wouldn’t hold any abusers accountable. However, the government had backed the bill, agreeing with lawmakers’ concerns that the law isn’t enough to end violence against women.

Under Pakistan’s military dictatorship of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, the judiciary has been extremely restrictive and some judges have criticized the country’s laws as too lenient. Under Islamic law, perpetrators of a crime that also results in the death of the victim have to be punished. The bill’s passage comes after increased calls for change in Pakistan, which came about in part because of powerful support from celebrity Bollywood stars, such as Meher Vij, who moved to Pakistan to escape the country’s acid attacks laws, and Ali Zafar, whose brother was forced to take his own life after being raped by a village council. Following Zafar’s social media campaign, Pakistan’s president, who is among the first Pakistani leaders to take seriously the problem of violence against women, this year approved legislation allowing acid attack victims to seek compensation.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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