ISLAMABAD: With the main suspect in the motorway gang-rape case still on the run and the nation’s temper simmering down, Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari said Prime Minister Imran Khan is opposed to publicly executing of sex offenders.

During an informal interaction with TV reporters on Friday, the minister said: “The prime minister has made it clear that execution cannot take place in public. While some support the idea of publicly hanging sex offenders, the government will consider international commitments and the Supreme Court ruling against public executions while deciding penalties for sexual assault in a new law for the protection of people, especially women and children.”

In February, the National Assembly passed a resolution seeking the “exemplary punishment” of public hanging for people convicted of sexually abusing and killing children.

Though the resolution was passed with a majority vote, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and two cabinet members - Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry and Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari - opposed the resolution and termed it “unacceptable” in any civilised society.

At a cabinet meeting 10 days ago, the minister had said the government would not accept any pressure from the international community and would make legislation regarding public hanging of rapists and chemical and physical castration of habitual sex abusers.

Nonetheless, on Friday, Dr Mazari said details of punishment in such cases will be discussed thoroughly. “There is already provision of death penalty in existing law in rape cases. The problem is with implementation. There are incidents where families reach a compromise. But now, the State will be party in the prosecution, preventing families from reconciling and reaching a compromise,” the minister said.

She told the briefing that the draft of a new bill will be prepared before the next parliamentary session. The new bill will provide protection to ordinary citizens and harsh punishments to sex offenders.

“The law, specific against rape cases, will be progressive and protect women, children and transgender, everyone. It will entail fresh inductions of police officers and investigation officials. It will protect the identity of victim. Anyone disclosing the identity of the victim will be punished under the law. A rape cell will be formed to supervise the progress made in rape cases and ensure timely decision and punishment to the offender,” she said, adding provisions for counseling of victims of abuse will also be included in the new law.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2020