Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s president has passed an ordinance aimed at ensuring rape trials are completed within four months, while also setting up a national sex offender registry.
“The President of the country Dr Arif Alvi has approved the Anti-Rape Ordinance 2020,” said a statement from his office on Tuesday, adding that the ordinance will remain valid for 120 days until it needs to be ratified by parliament.
“The ordinance will help expedite [legal] cases of sexual abuse against women and children.”
The new ordinance will set up special courts to try cases of sexual abuse of women and children, requiring all proceedings to be completed within four months.
It also establishes a special government cell to expedite the processing of legal cases, giving it the power to intervene and order medical examinations of rape survivors within six hours of a complaint being registered.
A lack of adequate medical evidence has often been at the heart of acquittals in rape cases in the country.
Last month, the government in Punjab province, the country’s most populous, banned the use of the archaic and invasive “two-finger” test by medical examiners to determine whether a woman was raped.
The country’s federal ministry of human rights has also opposed the use of that test.
In September, the gang rape of a woman on a major highway in Punjab sparked national outrage.
Following that incident, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called for repeat offenders in rape cases to be chemically castrated, and members of his ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf promised that use of the death penalty would be expanded in rape cases.
Local media quoted the new bill as legalising chemical castration as a form of punishment for repeat offenders.
It also criminalised the act of revealing rape survivors’ identities.
“Violence against women and girls – including rape, so-called honor killings, acid attacks, domestic violence, and forced marriage – remains a serious problem [in Pakistan],” reads a Human Rights Watch 2019 report on the country.
“Pakistani activists estimate that there are about 1,000 ‘honor’ killings every year.”
Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.