Jus­tice for sur­vivors

Enterprise - - Letters -

The new anti-rape law, passed by a joint sit­ting of par­lia­ment ear­lier this month, of­fers the hope of greater jus­tice to vic­tims of rape by ad­dress­ing some key is­sues that had stood in the way of this. In the first place, over­rid­ing a rul­ing by the Coun­cil of Is­lamic Ide­ol­ogy, the bill per­mits the use of DNA ev­i­dence in track­ing down a per­pe­tra­tor – a vi­tal task in any rape in­ves­ti­ga­tion. It also dis­al­lows ev­i­dence per­tain­ing to the char­ac­ter of the vic­tim, a fac­tor which un­der the Qanoon-e-Sha­ha­dat law of 1984 had been used again and again to al­low rapists to get away with their crime. While the law lays down a spe­cific max­i­mum pun­ish­ment for rape, as­sign­ing a life sen­tence to per­pe­tra­tors and death sen­tence in the case of the rape of a mi­nor or a men­tally dis­abled per­son un­less the fam­ily of the vic­tim grants a par­don in which case the death sen­tence will be con­verted to life im­pris­on­ment, there are still ma­jor loop­holes that stand out.

In the first place, no min­i­mum pun­ish­ment has been as­signed, a fac­tor which of­ten means giv­ing out guilty ver­dicts is some­thing courts steer away from in prac­tice. Also, the pre­vi­ous as­sault his­tory of the ac­cused per­son can­not be brought on record al­though, as le­gal ex­perts have pointed out, this is of­ten of cru­cial sig­nif­i­cance in de­ter­min­ing if the of­fence was com­mit­ted. The onus for prov­ing rape also lies with the vic­tim, while there is no clause cov­er­ing the sex­ual as­sault of a man – a com­mon crime in the coun­try where ac­cord­ing to fig­ures col­lected by NGOs up to 1,000 male chil­dren are sodomised each year. Pass­ing the law is just the first step. If the gov­ern­ment is truly se­ri­ous about deal­ing with rape and cut­ting down on the num­ber of cases in a coun­try where four rapes are re­ported each day, then steps need to be taken to bol­ster the law by back­ing up the mea­sures it lays down and en­sur­ing these go into prac­ti­cal ef­fect each time a vic­tim makes an ac­cu­sa­tion.

Mu­nazir Ali,

Lahore.

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