ISLAMABAD: Almost seven months after the country’s largest child sex abuse case was uncovered, a Senate panel on Wednesday passed a bill which criminalises — among other offences — child pornography, mental and physical abuse while proposing severe punishments.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2015, was passed by the Senate’s Functional Committee on Human Rights which proposed that the maximum punishment listed for digital related child abuse offences in the bill be reduced from life in prison to seven years of imprisonment along with Rs500,000 fine.
The bill had been first introduced in the National Assembly in 2009 but it could not be passed from the lower house till December 2015. It was subsequently introduced in the upper house and referred to the panel on December 23.
Minister for Climate Change and in-charge for Human Rights Zahid Hamid, Special Assistant to PM on National Affairs Zafarullah Khan insisted on passing the bill as soon as possible warning that it would lapse if not passed before the end of the current session.
Hamid explained that the August 2015 Kasur incident, in which at least 280 children were filmed being sexually abused while their parents blackmailed over the footage, had struck a chord with the government which wanted to expedite the bill’s passage.
The bill will now be debated on the floor of the assembly and voted upon. He added that while most of the sections were present in the existing law, the amendments brought them in line with the ‘digital age’.
Senator Nasreen Jalil, who chaired the committee, asked what was the government doing about implementing the laws and taking action against violators, Hamid replied that the government planned to form separate national commissions for rights of children, minorities, the physically challenged and women.
The bill proposes to amend section 82 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) 1860 whereby the minimum age for criminal responsibility has been raised from seven to 10 years. Similarly, another amendment in section 83 of PPC raises the upper limit for criminal responsibility from 12 years to 14 years of age.
At least seven new sections have been inserted into the PPC about a child’s exposure to seduction; pornography; punishment for child pornography; cruelty to a child; trafficking of human beings; sexual abuse and punishment.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2016.