September 2nd, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
The Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice has recommended amendments in the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) bill to cover offences of rape against women, children and transgender children, Senator Ali Zafar said.
The National Assembly had passed the anti-rape bill and it was tabled in the Senate on June 15. On Wednesday, a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice, chaired by Senator Ali Zafar, was held at Parliament Lodges in Islamabad to hold deliberations over the anti-rape bill.
“I’m happy that the proposed amendment bill for regulating the procedure of trial rape cases & safeguarding the witnesses has been discussed & a powerful, precise law has been presented back to the ministry, “ Senator Ali Zafar announced in a tweet after the standing committee meeting.
According to Senator Zafar, the amended anti-rape bill would now cover offences of rape against women, children and transgender children. The law would provide protection to the witness, adding that the bill has been amended to reject the allegation of immorality against a woman.
He said a joint investigation team will immediately start the investigation of cases. The special courts to be constituted under the anti-rape legislation would have to decide the cases in six months. The law also proposed punishment for those who try and create hurdles for prosecution in rape cases.
Senator Zafar said a committee would be constituted to review the workings of the special courts to be constituted under the law.
Once passed by the parliament, this will be a law that will accomplish the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan to provide protection to the women and children of this country,” Senator Zafar said.
Speaking to Voicepk.net, Senator Kamran Murtaza from Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl said the committee had recommended about 14 amendments in the anti-rape bill.
Inclusion of transgender children
According to a press statement from the committee, the members undertook a detailed review of the various clauses of the anti-rape bill. Members called for the inclusion of transgender persons into the bill. However, the Law Ministry suggested doing so would create medico-legal and administrative complications. Transgender children, however, were agreed to be included under the ambit of the law. “The committee accepted the law minister’s view regarding difficulties in including adult transgender persons in the anti-rape bill,” Murtaza said. However, child transgender victims would be included in the bill through an amendment, he added.
Panel rejects retired judges
The standing committee recommended that retired judges should not be considered for the special courts to be set up under the law. The Law Ministry clarified that the reason for inclusion of retired judges was to facilitate women, since there were many women retired judges who could bring value to the mission.
Senator Murtaza said the committee members rejected appointment of retired judges in special courts to be established under the law as previous instances of appointment of retired judges had not worked well in the country.
According to Murtaza, opposition members had expressed reservations over constitution of special courts in the anti-rape bill but the proposal was carried by a majority vote. “The committee members voted five against four to approve establishment of such courts under the bill,” he said.
In its stance, the Law Ministry stated that the creation of special courts was crucial to ensure that women and children are afforded a fair and speedy trial in a congenial environment.
Safety valve clause
Murtaza said the committee members expressed concerns about false accusations, stressing the need of a safety valve clause that would allow for questioning to establish the presence or absence of consent.
He said the proposed amendments would be circulated to committee members for review as to remove any ambiguities on what amendments members had agreed to in the meeting. The committee would pass the amended bill after the members review it, he added.
The committee members attending the meeting included Senator Shibli Faraz, Senator Muhammad Azam Khan Swati, Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar, Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, Senator Faooq Hamid Naek, Senator Kamran Murtaza, Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokar and Senator Walid Iqbal. Federal Minister for Law and Justice Senator Dr Farogh Naseem and the Parliamentary Secretary for Law and Justice Malika Bukhari were also present in the meeting.