September 30, 2023

By Hamza Saeed


LAHORE

In a contentious move that has sparked a nationwide debate, the Senate Standing Committee on Interior in Pakistan has reportedly approved a bill favouring the public hanging of rapists. Despite the intensified calls for harsher punishments following a high-profile gang-rape incident in 2020, the decision is facing significant opposition from various sectors, including political parties and human rights organisations.

Background of the Bill

The bill, proposed by Senator Mushtaq Ahmed of Jamaat-i-Islami, seeks to amend sections 375, 375A, and 376 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Schedule-II of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to introduce public hangings as a punishment for rapists. The decision comes in the wake of a horrific incident in September 2020, where a woman was gang-raped in front of her children on a motorway, leading to a nationwide outcry for more stringent penalties for sexual assault perpetrators.

It aims to remove section D and introduce public hangings for rapists as a form of capital punishment. The bill also includes provisions for proper treatment and medical examination reports for rape victims through public and private hospitals, addressing the issue of false imprisonment within residences.

Opposition and Concerns

Senator Sherry Rehman of the Pakistan People’s Party has reportedly voiced strong opposition to the bill, advocating for life sentences instead of public hangings. She emphasized the lack of evidence linking deterrence to public executions and expressed concerns about the potential increase in societal brutality, particularly among marginalized communities.

Human rights advocates have also expressed their reservations. Speaking to Voicepk.net, Harris Khalique, the General Secretary of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, highlighted the increase in violence and brutality in society during the time of public floggings under General Zia-ul-Haq’s regime. He emphasized the need for ensuring punishment rather than promoting public hangings.

Nida Aly, the Executive Director of AGHS Legal Aid Cell, described public hanging as brutality and theatrics, expressing concerns about the irreversible act in a country with a weak legal system. In a conversation with Voicepk.net, Jalila Haider, a renowned lawyer and activist, echoed similar sentiments, highlighting the need to address the root causes of rape in society.

Despite the opposition and concerns, the Senate committee, led by Senator Mohsin Aziz, approved the bill with some amendments. The committee also endorsed other bills focusing on proper treatment and medical examination reports for rape victims and addressing the issue of false imprisonment within residences.

Future Implications

The approval of the bill for public hangings of rapists in Pakistan has stirred significant debate and opposition from various sectors of society. Concerns about societal brutalization, the effectiveness of capital punishment as a deterrent, and the need for a robust criminal justice system have been highlighted. The decision reflects the tension between public demand for harsher punishments for rapists and the need to adhere to human rights standards and address the underlying issues contributing to sexual violence in society.

As the bill moves forward, it remains to be seen how the government and the Senate will address the concerns raised by various stakeholders. The debate underscores the complexity of the issue and the challenge of balancing the demand for justice with the adherence to human rights standards and societal well-being.

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