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Islamabad: Pakistan’s Senate sub-committee has approved the anti-rape bill that seeks the formation of special courts to fast-track trials in rape cases to provide speedy justice.

The ‘anti-rape (investigation and trial) bill 2021’ was referred to the Senate standing committee on law and justice after the National Assembly passed the bill on June 10. It will now be referred to the Senate for approval.

The meeting was presided over by Senator Syed Ali Zafar and attended by senators including Shibli Faraz, Mohammad Azam Khan Swati, Raza Rabbani, Farooq Naek, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar and senior officers from the ministry of law and justice. Law minister Senator Farogh Naseem and parliamentary secretary for law and justice Malika Bukhari were also present.

Some members of the opposition including PPP’s Raza Rabbani expressed reservations over the formation of special courts. PML-N’s Azam Nazeer Tarar claimed that similar courts were established in the past, and have not served any purpose.

After much deliberation, however, the sub-committee approved the bill which calls for the establishment of special courts to decide the outcome of the trial in rape cases within four months. The suspects cannot be granted bail during the trial. If suspects are proven guilty, they could face a death sentence, life imprisonment, or chemical castration, said Barrister Zafar.

Anti-rape bill

The ordinance was introduced to protect women and children from sexual abuse. In December last year, President Dr Arif Alvi had approved the ‘anti-rape ordinance 2020’ to ensure rape trials are completed within four months and allow for chemical castration of convicted offenders.

The bill aimed “to ensure expeditious redressal of rape and sexual abuse crimes in respect of women and children through special investigation teams and special courts providing for efficacious procedures, speedy trial, evidence” and related matters.

What does the bill propose?

• Special courts to be formed to complete rape cases within four months.

• Modern techniques and devices to be used during investigation and trial.

• No two-finger virginity test during medical examinations in sexual abuse cases.

• Investigation officials could face penalties if they are negligent or try to mislead case proceedings.

• Anti-rape crisis cells to ensure medico-legal examination of rape survivors within six hours of the complaint being registered and to support registration of FIR, forensic analysis.

• Victim and witness protection system to be established.

• Provision of legal, financial, other assistance to victims on pro bono or fee basis.

• The investigation should be carried out by a police officer of at least BPS-17 grade and preferably a female police officer.

• NADRA to maintain a national sex offender registry.

• Public reporting mechanism to be introduced to report suspected people.

• Special committee to be formed on pro bono basis for effective compliance of the law.