LAHORE: Emphasising protection of the identity of rape victims and their family while writing judgements by the trial judges, the Lahore High Court has also ordered the federal government to ensure effective implementation of the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Act 2021.

“Child sexual abuse is a deeply traumatic and sensitive issue that demands that the justice system handle these cases with exceptional care and consideration for the unique needs and vulnerabilities of child victims,” said a judgement authored by Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh.

The judgement also dismissed an appeal of a man against his conviction on charges of sexually assaulting a minor boy.

The judge noted that the parliament passed the anti-rape law in 2021 to effectively deal with rape and sexual abuse offences.

Orders Centre to implement anti-rape law effectively

However, he observed, regrettably, some of the provisions of the 2021 Act have not been implemented and the intended goals of the legislation have not been realised.

The judge noted that section 26 of the 2021 Act explicitly prohibits the disclosure or revelation of the identity of a victim or the victim’s family unless prior written permission is obtained from the aggrieved parties.

He said it is disturbing that, in the present case, the trial judge repeatedly used the victim’s full name instead of employing an acronym.

The judge mentioned that when a child engages with the judicial system, the response should be supportive, collaborative, and aligned with a child right-driven approach.

He said involvement with the legal system can take various forms, such as being a party in a legal case, acting as a witness, undergoing legal proceedings, or seeking legal remedies.

Justice Sheikh observed that although section 26 of the Act does not relate to printing or publication of the court judgments, it is essential to recognise that this provision was enacted with the societal goal of preventing social victimisation or ostracism of sexual offence victims.

“Therefore, judges should exercise extreme caution when writing judgments. Henceforth, they shall identify the victims using acronyms rather than full names,” the judge maintained in the order.

The judge directed the LHC registrar to circulate copies of the judgment to all the district and sessions judges in Punjab to ensure compliance of the instructions.

The judge also ordered the federal government to immediately review steps taken to implement the 2021 Act and ensure that the requisite systems are in place within 60 days.

A sessions court had sentenced the appellant, Imadullah, 14-year imprisonment under section 377-B of PPC. The convict was a principal at a private school in Bahawalnagar and had sexually assaulted a class-IV student.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2024

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