Two years after the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl that shocked the country, Pakistan’s parliament has passed a new law against child abuse.
The law has been introduced after the death of Zainab Ansari, whose body was found in a rubbish skip in Kasur district near the eastern city of Lahore in 2018, sparking large protests and accusations of negligence by authorities.
Pakistan’s human rights minister, Shireen Mazari, said on Wednesday that a penalty of life imprisonment awaits those found guilty of child abuse.
There had been reports of a number of missing children in the district since 2015, when authorities uncovered what they said was a paedophile ring linked to a prominent local family.
Imran Ali, 24, was convicted over the death of Zainab, and has also been linked to death of seven other girls.
Mazari tweeted that the bill’s passage had been “a long struggle” as she thanked colleagues for helping it clear numerous hurdles.
“Finally, we have emerged today successful, getting the Zainab Alert Bill sailed through the national assembly with a majority of votes,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
An amended version of the bill cleared Pakistan’s legislative assembly late on Wednesday after being passed by the upper house earlier this year. It is expected to receive the formal assent of the president in the coming days.
Zainab’s case triggered debate in Pakistan over whether to teach children how to guard against sex abuse, a taboo subject in the Muslim-majority nation.
Nearly 10 cases of child abuse a day are reported in Pakistan, with girls disproportionately affected, according to Sahil, an organisation that works on child protection.
The law requires police to register a case within two hours of a child’s parents reporting them missing.
It includes measures to speed up the process, including the establishment of a dedicated helpline and a new agency to issue alerts for a missing child. (Source: The Guardian)