Pakistan’s upper house of parliament passed a bill that would make chemical castration of rapists mandatory in a nation where many girls and women have been violated and raped over the past decade.
The bill also requires convicted rapists to serve 20 years in prison.
It became law after the National Assembly passed the bill in August, but Wednesday it was approved by a Senate committee chaired by the opposition leader from the ruling party.
The move is intended to protect women’s rights in the country, where activists have pushed for the introduction of safer public spaces and safe places for women to go alone in public. But they have said some lawmakers and religious conservatives oppose measures they deem unfair or don’t welcome the introduction of new laws.
The head of the National Commission on the Status of Women, Shahnaz Wazir Ali, said the new legislation would reduce reported rape cases by up to 50 percent and help curb violence against women.
“There has been an alarming increase in cases of rape and acid attacks in Pakistan, but we have failed to discourage it because we just don’t have the fear of going to a lawyer or something like that,” she said.
Ali said that more than 100 acid attacks occurred every year in Pakistan. “Every such case is a national shame for the country. But we don’t take action to prevent them.”
Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, applauded the parliament’s decision to pass the law. He said the objective was to preserve girls’ honor and ensure their “chosen life is not disgraced.”
The bill also lays down the punishment for women who entertain male “crimes of passion.”
Pakistan has an estimated 135 million Muslims, the largest single population in the world, mostly descendants of different Muslim empires in the area that included India and parts of China and the Middle East.
The widespread acceptance of Taliban rule in the tribal areas on the Afghan border gives rise to hard-line Islam in the region and many Pakistanis consider the Taliban as a force for Islam, even though they waged a bloody campaign of terror in their country’s northwest and denied women education and basic rights.