In a landmark move in the country’s history, a parliamentary panel on Tuesday approved sentencing child rapists to death or, at least, life imprisonment.
“Whosoever commits an offence … against a woman when she is under 14 years of age shall be punished with imprisonment for life or death,” read the amended clauses of The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2014 cleared by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Interior. The bill would now be sent to the NA for approval. When cleared by the lower house of parliament, it would be sent to the Senate.
“It is a historic legislation that would save children from rapists,” said MNA Shaista Pervaiz Malik, who, through this bill, sought amendments to the Pakistan Penal Code (1860), the Code of Criminal Procedure (1898) and the Qanoon-e-Shahadat (1984) to improve rape prosecution. “My journey has not ended yet,” she told The Express Tribune. “While even piecemeal rape reform is commendable and needed, one could aspire for more refinements in future.”
Almost a similar bill moved by Senator Sughra Imam is pending with parliament. First passed by the Senate, it was referred by the NA to the relevant standing committee, which failed to take up the bill in the required time period of 90 days. Now this bill would be taken up by the joint session whenever it is convened, a mandatory parliamentary requirement for the passage of this bill. “I’m quite hopeful that this landmark bill would sail through parliament soon,” said Sughra.
The interior ministry had informed parliament earlier this year that an alarming 14,583 rape cases had been registered across the country since 2011, with 12,795 cases registered in Punjab alone.
The bill said that when a rape or an attempted rape comes under investigation, the female victim shall be examined by a registered female medical practitioner employed in a hospital run by the government or a local authority. A mandatory DNA sample shall be collected from the victim during the medical examination, and the sample shall be sent to a forensic lab at the earliest.
Criminal law bill 2015
The NA committee also passed The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2015 with some major amendments proposed by the panel members and officials of the ministries of law & justice and interior. “The government authorises detention of a person for a period that shall not exceed 90 days if the government has reasonable grounds to believe that the person’s manner is prejudicial to the integrity and security of Pakistan,” Joint Law Secretary Abdul Sattar Khokhar informed the committee.
Severe punishment has been proposed for those involved in forced marriages, child marriages, hurting religious feelings and banned organisations.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 4th, 2015.