Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved in principle a law that states people convicted of rape could be chemically castrated.
The law also allows the fast-tracking of sexual assault cases as part of a wider effort to address sexual violence against women and children in the country, according to local reports.
Khan gave his approval during a federal cabinet meeting but the policy has not yet been officially announced by his government.
He has approved in principle two “critical ordinances” to deal with “crime of rape and child abuse and to make the necessary amendments” in the Pakistan Penal Code.
“We need to ensure a safe environment for our citizens,” Khan said, as quoted by local media.
Under the new law, rape survivors will be able to register complaints without fear of reprisal, adding that the government will protect their identity. Women’s roles in policing and witness protection will also be improved, with special courts established to deal with cases.
The law also prohibits the controversial “two-finger” test performed on rape survivors. Vaginal examinations are often carried out to determine whether a woman or girl has had intercourse, but these tests have no scientific merit and cannot prove or disprove whether rape has occurred.
The World Health Organization has called for an end to such invasive and medically meaningless tests, highlighting the examinations as “unscientific, medically unnecessary and unreliable” as well as a gross violation of a woman’s right to dignity and privacy.
Some federal ministers also reportedly recommended public hanging for convicted rapists.
Violence against women and girls, including rape, so-called honor killings, acid attacks, domestic violence and forced marriage, remains a serious problem in Pakistan. Local activists estimate that there are about 1,000 honor killings every year, Human Rights Watch reports.
Over five million primary-school-age children are out of school, the majority of them girls. Reasons include a lack of schools in their areas, child marriage and gender discrimination.
In recent months, however, Pakistani authorities have succeeded in enforcing some key reforms around women’s rights.
In August, the parents of Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani social media celebrity who was murdered by her brothers in July 2016, were denied their request to “pardon” the perpetrators.
After Qandeel’s murder, the parliament passed a law closing the pardon loophole used by families to protect perpetrators.
In July, the Supreme Court of Pakistan held that in cases of acid attacks, a mercy petition filed by the victim forgiving the perpetrator cannot be allowed because it constitutes “extreme cruelty.”
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