Pakistan President Arif Alvi signed on Tuesday a new anti-rape law which will speed up convictions, toughen sentences and launch the country’s first national sex offenders registry.
The new law is also designed to protect the identity of victims and allow the chemical castration of some offenders.
The law goes into effect immediately but must be ratified by parliament within 120 days.
The new law also orders the establishment of special courts to try cases of rape and sexual abuse against women and children and will be expected to reach a verdict within four months.
It comes after a public outcry over the gang rape of a mother in front of her children earlier this year outside the city of Lahore that has triggered national outrage and led to protests across the country.
Lahore’s most senior police official implied the following day that the victim had been partially at fault for the assault.
His comments and the brutal assault appalled Pakistanis, spurring a wave of demonstrations nationwide and forcing the government to promise action.
Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet approved the legal measure last month, and President Alvi signed it into law on Tuesday.
Some however have criticised the ordinance, saying the punishments are too harsh and arguing that officials did not follow the necessary consultation process before approving it.
Other countries already use chemical castration – medication to reduce testosterone – as part of their sentencing for sexual offenders: Indonesia passed a chemical castration law for paedophiles in 2016, while Poland made it compulsory for adults who rape children in 2009.
There has been growing awareness of sexual violence in Pakistan over the last few years.
In 2015, one woman was gang-raped in a remote village and footage of the attack appeared on social media. The country did not have laws to stop the footage from being shared online. (Source: BBC)