As Pakistan tries to reduce its percentage of rape, a new law was passed on 17 November 2021. Whilst it took a year for the bill to pass, the law approved by the Parliament aims for harsher sentencing for reoffended rapists. It included the allowance of the use of chemical castration as a deterrent against those convicted of multiple rapes.
However, Pakistani rulers changed their minds. Only two days after passing the law, they made a sharp U-turn and revoked the castration clause. They claimed it un-Islamic. Whilst the law still stands, which calls for harsher sentencing of convicted rapists, it had the castration punishment for the crime removed.
Side effects of the treatment include the halting of testosterone production, high pitched voice, and a reduced sex drive. This, theoretically, should point towards lower rape and sexual assault cases if convicts are subjected to this sentencing.
Increasing cases of rape
The call came after a surge in rapes of women and children in the country. The introduction of the new law has a particular interest in bettering justice for victims of sexual assault.
The country itself has reported increasing reports of rape and sexual assault. According to a report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, from January to November 2020, there were a total of 4,155 cases of rape in Punjab. This appears to be an increase from the year before, which had registered 4,071 cases, recorded from January to December 2019. Critics state that fewer than 4% of rape or sexual assault cases in Pakistan result in prosecution.
Around the world
Pakistani law comes after many other countries have taken similar approaches. In 2019, Ukraine passed an anti-rape law where offenders could be chemically castrated. Whereas, in the Czech Republic, surgical castration has been in practice since 1966. According to official figures, 85 people underwent surgical castration in the Czech Republic between 2000 and 2011.
These are not the only places where these laws have been passed and carried out. Many other countries already have laws and legislations in place for forcible chemical castration of sex offenders and child molesters. Poland, Moldova, Estonia, South Korea, India, and Indonesia are just to name a few.
Whilst Pakistan remains an Islamic country, it should, in theory, respect the rights of women. A law that rules forcibly castration of rapists does appear, in an attempt, to have the rights of women in mind.
However, as reassuring as it is for women and victims of sexual assault to see that sentencing of such crimes are taken more seriously, experts say castration does not help but come across as revenge, opposed to justice.
Amnesty International has immediately condemned Pakistani law. “Forced chemical castration violates the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment under international human rights law”, the organisation stated.
In the same breath, many doctors do not agree with the harsh sentence as it contradicts their own vows to “do no harm”, leaving the community divided on what is an appropriate enough punishment to prevent offenders.
“Chemical castration under the current laws is vaguely positioned between punishment and treatment due to lack of informed consent by the recipient, and so remains a problematic issue for medical ethics”, claims the Journal of Korean Medical Science in light of South Korea’s castration law, passed in 2013.
Experts Donald Grubin and Anthony Beech responded to chemical castration in a British Medical Journal article, published in 2010, saying that “doctors should avoid becoming agents of social control“.
Virginity test banned
This anti-rape law came after a landmark vote in January 2021 to remove the clause involving the so-called virginity test in rape examinations. This would be performed by inserting two fingers into the woman’s cervix to ensure the hymen was intact. This prehistoric clause has been abolished, removing the blame from women by shifting the focus back onto the offender. Rather than further humiliating the victim by using an invasive test that has no scientific basis.
Whilst Pakistan tries to better bring justice to the victims of rape and sexual assault, the country still has a way to go in respecting and re-enforcing the rights of women in the country.
Nevertheless, it is a pleasant relief for women and feminists everywhere to know that Pakistan is trying to make more positive changes for their women, even if they adjust their laws two days later.