WEB DESK: About 500 women are reportedly murdered each year in Pakistan by their close relatives in the name of honour; honour-killing cases that go unreported must be many more.
And conviction rate in such cases is almost zero, because under the law the murderer would go scot-free if pardoned by the complainant who in such cases is invariably related to the accused.
Punishing rapists is equally problematic, because in rape cases DNA verification as proof of the crime is not admissible as primary evidence. Hopefully, all of this is going to change – a joint sitting of parliament on Thursday passed extensive amendments to concerned laws plugging loopholes that allowed people who committed such offences go unpunished. Both the Anti-Honour Killing Laws (Criminal Amendment Bill) 2015 and the Anti-Rape Laws (Criminal Amendment Bill) 2015 were originally moved by the ex-member of Senate Sughra Imam and passed by the Upper House.
However, apparently under pressure of some religious parties, the National Assembly did not take them up, and the bills lapsed. Perhaps, but for some touching cases of women burning and the gruesome honour-killing of Facebook star Qandeel Baloch in recent months such a prompt legislation by parliament would not have happened. It was Senator Farhatullah Babar, who has earned the ‘notoriety’ of seeking legislation for the weak and the powerless, moved the amendment bills in a joint sitting of parliament, and the house passed them unanimously.
What other magic had worked for this dramatic turn we have no clue, except for the growing national awakening to get into pace with the time defying dictates by the so-called custodians of our culture and faith. Sometime back, the Islamic Ideology Council had opposed admission of DNA proof of rape as primary evidence. Senator Farhatullah Babar is rightly elated that parliament has ‘asserted its authority over the Council’.
The amended law on honour killing envisages that if a woman is murdered in the name of honour by a close family member he would be liable to strict punishment even if he is pardoned by another family member. But it is up to the judge to decide if the killing was for honour or some other reason – a lacuna that is being pointed out by the civil society. Also, there was some debate about the compoundability of offence of honour killing, to which Senator Babar reacted saying that that’s not an issue of ideology but of politics.
If murder under the anti-terror laws and Women Protection Act 2004 was not compoundable, why should it be compoundable in honour killing cases. Not only would the anti-rape amended law admit DNA as primary and exclusive evidence, it would also stipulate punishment for the officers who may sabotage or disregard the investigation.
An added provision also holds that anyone who rapes a minor or a mentally or physically disabled person would be liable to punishment for death penalty or life imprisonment. The hearing of cases against offences such as rape would be held in-camera and would admit video links to record statements of the victim and witnesses.
And the media has been barred from publishing or publicising names or giving any clue to identification of the victim, except when publishing the court judgement. In order to incorporate such provisions, related sections of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) would be duly amended.
Source: Business Recorder