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Pakistan issues new law for speedy trials of alleged rapists

Munir Ahmed
Associated Press

Islamabad – Pakistan’s president on Tuesday issued a much-awaited new law requiring the establishment of special courts to speedily conclude trials of people charged with raping women or children, a move hailed by rights activists.

The law, which must be approved by Parliament to remain in effect, requires courts to conclude the trials of alleged rapists and issue verdicts within four months. It also prohibits the disclosure of the identity of rape victims, according to a statement released by President Arif Alvi’s office on Twitter.

In this Oct. 28, 2018 file photo, released by Press Information Department, Pakistan's President Arif Alvi speaks to journalists prior to departing to Turkey, in Islamabad, Pakistan.

The statement provided few additional details. Leading Pakistani English-language newspaper The Dawn reported that under the new law any official who shows negligence in investigating rape cases could face a three-year prison sentence. The paper also reported that repeat offenders could be chemically castrated.

The development comes months after Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to remove flaws in existing laws to ensure speedy justice for rape victims. The law issued by Alvi will lapse if Parliament does not approve it within 120 days.

Before the new law, rape cases could drag on for years, mainly because of faulty investigations and flawed laws, making it difficult for victims to come forward to share their ordeal.

Suspects found guilty of raping women and children can potentially face a death sentence in Pakistan.

Khan recently also hinted at public executions or surgical castration of convicted rapists after two assailants gangraped a woman on a deserted highway near the eastern city of Lahore in September. The incident at the time shocked Pakistan, even though attacks on women are common in the deeply conservative Muslim country.

Nearly 1,000 women are killed in Pakistan each year in so-called “honor killings” for allegedly violating conservative norms on love and marriage.