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Pakistan rape ordinance prohibits people from naming rape survivors

President approves Anti-Rape Ordinance 2020

SAMAA | - Posted: Dec 15, 2020 | Last Updated: 9 months ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Dec 15, 2020 | Last Updated: 9 months ago

Photo: Online

President Arif Alvi approved on Tuesday the Anti-Rape Ordinance 2020 that seeks to address the loopholes in Pakistan’s rape laws and expedite rape cases in the country

Under the ordinance, special courts that deal with rape cases will be set up across the country to speed up the justice process for women and children victims of sexual abuse. They will be directed to complete investigations within four months, said the official account of the president on Twitter

The prime minister has been tasked with setting up anti-rape crisis cells nationwide. The cells will be authorised to conduct medico-legal examination of victims within six hours.

The new law also forbids revealing the identity of rape victims and makes it a punishable offence. 

A national registry of sexual offenders will be established with the help of NADRA.

In November, Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced that his government would introduce a “stringent and holistic” anti-rape ordinance to ensure fast-track trials. The decision was taken following the Kashmore gangrape incident.

Pakistan’s rape laws

Rape is a punishable offence in Pakistan. The definition and punishment for this crime is detailed under Sections 375 and 376 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

According to the law, a man is said to commit rape when he has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the five following descriptions:

  • Against her will
  • Without her consent
  • With her consent, when the consent has been obtained by putting her in fear of death or of hurt
  • With her consent, when the man knows that he is not married to her and that the consent is given because she believes that the man is another person to whom she is or believes herself to be married; or
  • With or without her consent when she is under 16 years of age.

The convicted rapists will be sentenced to jail for no less than 10 years or more than 25 years, according to the law. A fine will also be imposed on them.

Previous changes in rape laws

One of the biggest changes in Pakistan’s rape laws was that that rape (zina bil jabr) was finally separated from zina (adultery) and was made an offence under the Pakistan Penal Code instead of the Hudood Ordinance. This change came about in 2006 as a result of the Protection of Women (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2006. You will find rape in Section 375 of the Pakistan Penal Code now.

Ten years later, the law was changed again, in 2016, to the Criminal Law (Amendment) (Offense of Rape) Act 2016. Since the law was changed, not a single woman has been charged with zina and sent to languish in jail and several rape cases were reported and went to court, according to Farieha Aziz of Bolobhi, writing in Newsline magazine eight years ago.

If a public servant doesn’t do their job in a rape case, they can go to jail. Under Section 166(2) of the PPC, if any government servant doesn’t properly investigate a rape case or doesn’t diligently follow it, or doesn’t take the prosecution through to its logical conclusion, they can be sentenced to three years maximum and/or be fined.

The law applies to a police officer, a jailor or a medical examiner. They are not allowed to intentionally create hurdles, mislead, jeopardise or defeat an investigation.

If a public official rapes then there is culpability for that too.

Deadlines on cases

There is a time cap on rape case that they cannot take more than three months under Section 344(A), CrPC:

A case of or attempt of abduction and kidnapping for illicit intercourse, rape, unnatural offences or sexual abuse must be decided within 3 months, after which it shall be sent to the notice of the Chief Justice of the High Court.

The appeal has to happen in six months. If you factor in the time it takes to prepare an appeal, then any rape case can be wrapped up in a year’s time.

You can’t give ID of victims

Section 352, CrPC:
Trial to be in camera: Trials of cases of abduction and kidnapping for illicit intercourse, rape, unnatural offences and sexual abuse shall be conducted in camera. An application made by parties, may result in allowing particular persons to have access to or remain in Court. Special measures may be adopted for protection of victim etc. including use of screens, video link etc.

Another thing in the new law is that the victim’s identity will not be disclosed. If there is an alleged rape, not even an FIR, you cannot broadcast the information anywhere, nor can you share any of the information, without explicit permission from the court.

The trial from day one till the end will be done in camera, meaning in the judge’s chamber or in a private place. The trial includes everything from statements to the cross examination. There are supposed to be screens but this is not always possible in our courtrooms, which are often (but not always) too small. This is a very sobering point to note for the media that jumps to cover rape stories.

Female supervision

Under Section 164A CrPC and Section 161A CrPC:

Right to legal representation: The police officer shall inform the victim of her right to legal representation after recording information of an offence or an attempt of offence.

An Investigation Officer or IO will register the FIR—not a head moharrar. It has to happen in the presence of a female police officer. If a female officer is not available, then it should be done in the presence of a female family member. The police have to maintain a referral directory of lawyers and tell everyone woman in a rape case that she has the right to a lawyer.


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