Written by Staff Writer
(CNN) — Pakistan’s Parliament has passed a new anti-rape bill, offering victims of sexual assault the option of the more severe chemical castration.
The law, passed by a vote of 257 to 67, clarifies existing rape laws and introduces a new classification of rape. There are currently four such classes of rape in the country, the lowest being “non-consensual sexual intercourse” — defined as “carnal intercourse against the will of the victim.”
After debate and heated public statements, the anti-rape bill passed this weekend gives victims of rape more options, including the option of chemical castration. Dawn
While the Senate had already passed an amended version of the bill last month, it was only after President Mamnoon Hussain supported and signed the bill into law that it could be presented in the National Assembly, Pakistan’s lower house of Parliament.
Pakistan’s National Assembly passed the new legislation in late July, but lawmakers pushed through an amendment removing the option of chemical castration for rapists who are under the age of 18.
The amended bill also allows police to involuntarily administer the chemical chlormethyltestosterone to a teenage girl, to stop her from reproducing without the permission of her rapist.
Dr. Afsheen Ashraf, who specializes in drug abuse and forensic medicine at Rawalpindi Institute of Neurosciences, says the provision could save life.
She says that under the new legislation, the girl will be too intoxicated to resist any attempts to force herself on her.
“To use this hormonal drug and administer it to a 15- or 16-year-old girl would be tantamount to torture,” she says.
Ashraf also worries that there is no way to monitor the dosage of the drug, or the effect it would have on the victim.
“The only thing I can say is that if they did it, the drug, or whatever is administered to the girl, will have a devastating effect on her mental, as well as physical, health,” she says.
The law also bans the forcing of a victim into marriage, unless the rapist is over 18, says Cyril Almeida, a writer and correspondent with Dawn, a leading English-language newspaper based in Pakistan.
He reports that last year, 89% of women in the country were married against their will, while 13% were living with their rapist.
Activists say the new law will only deter few offenders, and they note that there are already existing legal protections for rape victims.
Sohaila Khan, a writer who lives in Pakistan, says that the law is intended to at least encourage people to report more rapes.
“The idea of the law was to act as deterrent because the fear of legal action hasn’t led to more cases being reported, which is why we were able to give a comprehensive set of protection,” she says.
Nighat Dad, a Pakistani rape victim who organized the campaign Change The Law, Change the Culture for anti-rape legislation, says it’s already having an effect in the local community.
“People are concerned about what this law says about rape. When I talk to people, the first question they ask is ‘are women forced to marry their rapists?’” she says.
She also says the new law shows the country is finally opening its eyes to the plight of rape victims.
“The more people become aware of the situation, the more vocal they become,” she says.
For her part, Khan says the new law is an example of how the laws can be changed.
“All over the world, it’s happening,” she says. “It’ll all be fine. It’s not because the law is being changed, it’s because we are putting ourselves in a position to do so.”