Pakistani activists welcome new anti-rape law amid concerns about implementation 

Members of VCare Welfare Trust hold placards during a protest against an alleged gang rape of a woman, in Karachi on September 13, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 28 November 2020

Pakistani activists welcome new anti-rape law amid concerns about implementation 

  • Ordinance lists as possible rape victims not only women but also men and transgender persons, widen’s the scope of the crime
  • Activists have raised concerns about the law’s implementation in a country where the conviction rate in rape cases is less than five percent

ISLAMABAD: Activists have welcomed the Pakistani government’s decision to broaden the definition of rape and establish special courts to expedite prosecution of rape cases under a new law but raised concerns about the law’s implementation in a country where the conviction rate in rape cases is less than five percent.

The Anti-Rape (Inves­tigation and Trial) Ordinance 2020 and Pakistan Penal Code (Amendment) Ordinance 2020, passed by the cabinet on Tuesday, is now awaiting the president’s approval, after which it will be immediately put into effect as an ordinance and within 120 days subjected to parliamentary vote. 

“This is an important legislation, and the government must have a plan to enact a law through the parliament after expiry of the ordinances,” Nighat Dad, a lawyer and activist, told Arab News on Friday.

“Many progressive provisions have been included in the proposed law ... but only strict implementation can ensure the timely justice,” Dad added, saying the government must improve the process of investigation and prosecution. 

The ordinance lists as possible rape victims not only women, but also men and transgender persons, and widens the crime’s scope by including provisions on gang rape, consent and sexual violence. The definition of penetration has been broadened to include all its forms, while the archaic and controversial two-finger virginity test of rape victims has been banned.

The new legislation has come in the wake of a series of headline-grabbing rape cases across the country, including the gang-rape of a woman, in front of her minor children, along a major highway. The case spurred cries of outrage as rights activists and citizens demanded that the government do more to stem violence against women, including ensuring perpetrators were held accountable in a country that has seen over 3,500 rapes this year.

Pakistan already has severe sentences for rape though they are seldom implemented: 10-25 years in prison for rape and life imprisonment or death for gang rape. 

Other salient provisions of the new legislation are chemical castration of rape convicts, and the protection of the identity of victims and witnesses by holding trials through a video link or by using screens in courtrooms. The law will also ban publishing or broadcasting of any material or information related to court proceedings in rape cases.

While the establishment of special courts under the law will help expedite prosecution in rape cases, Zohra Yusuf, former chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said more had to be done to improve the pre-trial process.

“The focus should be on timely collection of relevant evidence and their early presentation in the court to ensure conviction of the criminals,” she said, adding that she was opposed to the death penalty for rape convicts, which will be applicable under the new law.

The new legislation also introduces a sentence of life and capital punishment. 

“We should focus on implementation of the laws and ensure certainty of punishment to curb the crime instead of increasing the punishment,” Maliha Zia Lari, associate director at Legal Aid Society, told Arab News. “The biggest problem to increase conviction rate in rape cases is lack of resources and skills of investigators.”
 


Pakistani Twitter rejoices as archrival India beats Australia in cricket win for the ages

Updated 10 min 4 sec ago

Pakistani Twitter rejoices as archrival India beats Australia in cricket win for the ages

  • Pakistan and India are political foes and have one of the most intense sports rivalries in the world
  • Tuesday’s win by India was unequivocally cheered by Pakistani cricket fans who called it “one of the greatest test match wins of all time”

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani social media users rejoiced on Tuesday as India bagged an incredible three-wicket win in the fourth test decider against Australia.

India’s Rishabh Pant timed his innings to perfection, ramping up the aggression in a stellar 89 as India stormed to a record 328-run chase at the Gabba and became the first team to beat the hosts at the Brisbane stronghold since the West Indies in 1988.

Pakistan and India are political archrivals and fierce opponents in the cricket field. But Tuesday’s win was unequivocally cheered by Pakistani cricket fans on Twitter, who called it one of “the greatest test series and test match wins of all time.”

“From 36 all out in the same series to winning it on Australia soil. Wow,” former cricketer and fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar wrote.

“Investing in your players, giving them financial security, protecting them, giving them exposure, having A team tours is eventually bound to pay off. Well done India,” said cricket manager Rehan ulHaq.

“India basically pulled off one of the greatest test series and test match wins of all time,” said Uzair Younus, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. “To win Down Under [Australia] is an achievement on its own. But to do it when several first-team players are out injured is a whole new level of achievement. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.”

“Given results, their injuries, and lack thereof of the home side, this Indian team is probably the greatest from South Asia to tour Australia,” said Umair Javed, an assistant professor at LUMS, Pakistan’s most prestigious private university.

“Cricket is the winner (and Australia the loser),” Javed said in another tweet.

“What a fight back by Indian cricket team in the series, they’ve played quality cricket. From 36-all out in first test to 2-1 up. Commendable. Love and respect from Pakistan,” Twitter user Taliha said, posting one of thousands of tweets praising the Indian team’s performance.

“Tremendous cricket by Indians,” Haider Rasool wrote. “Love from Pakistan.”

One Indian Twitter user posted: “Thank you Pakistan. Today’s win is ever more special because of support from neighbor.”

Strained relations between the two nations, who were one country before the partition of British India split them into India and Pakistan in 1947, and a decades-long dispute over the Himalayan valley of Kashmir conflict, has laid the foundations of one of the most intense sports rivalries in the world.

Pakistan and Indian have not played a bilateral Test series since 2008 when already brittle ties were shattered by the Mumbai terror attacks.