A resolution calling for the public hanging of offenders convicted for sexually abusing and murdering children was passed in the National Assembly on Friday with a majority of votes.
The session was presided over by Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri.
The hand-written resolution, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, referred to the "brutal killing of 8-year-old Iwaz Noor in Nowshera".
"Strongly condemning" the death, the signatories wrote: "This house [...] demands that to stop these shameful and brutal killings of children and give a strong deterrent effect, the killers and rapists should not only be given death penalty by hanging but they should be hanged publicly."
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan presented the resolution in the parliament, which was passed by all lawmakers, apart from PPP's.
Raja Pervez Ashraf, PPP leader and former prime minister, said: "Ramping up the severity of punishments does not result in a reduction in crime."
"We cannot put public hanging into practice as it violates the laws of the United Nations," he added, reminding members of the parliament that Pakistan is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
He was not the only one to raise his voice against the passing of the resolution. Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry "strongly condemned" it.
"This is just another grave act in line with brutal civilisation practices. Societies act in a balanced way. Barbarism is not the answer to crimes [...] this is another expression of extremism," he wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari clarified that the resolution "was not government-sponsored but an individual act".
"Many of us oppose it — our MOHR (Ministry of Human Rights) strongly opposes this. Unfortunately I was in a meeting and wasn't able to go to NA," she said, in a post on Twitter.
According to a report released by child rights organisation Sahil in September last year, 1,304 cases of sexual abuse of children were reported by the media in the country from January to June.
This means that at least seven children are abused every day.
With the issue continuing to remain widely prevalent, the government has been met with criticism for not taking any concrete measures to address flaws in the investigation of such cases or the implementation of the relevant laws.
Presently, multiple laws are available in the country for dealing with child-related offences.
Punjab was the first province where a law on child protection was enacted in 2004. The Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children Act, 2004, deals with a variety of issues related to child protection. The law gives a definition of ‘destitute and neglected child.’
Under this law, a child protection and welfare bureau has to be set up with wide-ranging functions. The bureau has also to set up child protection institutions in different areas.
The KP Child Protection and Welfare Act (CPWA) was enacted in 2010. This law is more comprehensive than that of Punjab. The KP law included several offences against children with prescribed punishments. The offences incorporated in the Act include: child pornography, sexual abuse, sale in child organs, corporal punishment and child begging and trafficking.
The KP Act provides for setting up of child protection bodies, including child protection courts, the Child Protection and Welfare Commission, child protection units on district level, child protection institute, etc.
The Sindh Child Protection Authority Act, 2011, was enacted in June 2011. This law makes it binding on the provincial government to establish Sindh Child Protection Authority, which is chaired by minister for social welfare. The authority has to set up child protection units and also appoint child protection officers. However, this law is not as comprehensive as that of KP and Punjab.
Balochistan Child Protection Act, 2016, was enacted in November 2016. This law includes definitions of different categories of violence against children, including mental violence, physical violence, sexual abuse and exploitation, etc. It provides for setting up of a child protection commission on provincial level and child protection units on district level.
Several important amendments were made in Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) through the Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, 2016, which was enacted in March 2016. Some of the provisions included in PPC are similar to the one available in KP CPWA, including offences related to exposure to seduction, child pornography, sexual abuse, etc.
Similarly, new sections 377A and 377B were incorporated in PPC in which a detailed definition of sexual abuse and its punishment are given.
In 2018, an amendment was made in Section 377B of the PPC to make the punishment for sexual abuse more stringent. It now provides imprisonment which shall not be less than 14 years and may extend to 20 years with minimum fine of Rs1 million.
Similarly, in the 2016 amendments the offence of child pornography was made punishable to minimum two years imprisonment and maximum seven years besides fine.
However, through amendments in 2018, the said offence was made punishable with at least 14 years imprisonment and maximum 20 years imprisonment with minimum fine of Rs1 million.
Moreover, in 2016 death penalty was introduced for raping a minor. The Criminal Law (Amendment) (Offences related to rape) Act, 2016, was introduced in 2016.
Under those amendments, a sub-section 3 was included in Section 376 of the PPC which provides: “Whoever commits rape of a minor or a person with mental or physical disability shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life.”