Parliament unanimously passed legislation against “honour killings” on Thursday, three months after the murder of social media star Qandeel Baloch.
Joint session of the lower and upper houses of parliament, approved the new anti-honour killing law, removing a loophole in existing law that allows killers to walk free after being pardoned by family members.
The legislation on honour killings will introduce strict punishment for the convicts making it tougher than the ordinary murder cases.
Before moving the Anti-Rape Bill, PPP senator Farhatullah Babar informed the joint session: “The bill will prove to be effective in curbing rape cases across the country.”
Some 500 women are killed each year in Pakistan at the hands of family members over perceived damage to “honour” that can involve eloping, fraternising with men or any other infraction against conservative values relating to women.
In most cases, the victim is a woman and the killer is a relative who escapes punishment by seeking forgiveness for the crime from family members.
Under the new law, relatives can forgive convicts in the case of a death sentence, but they would still have to face a mandatory life sentence.
An anti-rape law, which makes it mandatory that a perpetrator gets 25 years in jail, was also passed in the same parliamentary session.
Debating during the session, Law Minister Zaid Hamid revealed that the perpetrator of the crime will also be medically examined after this bill is turned into law.
“The verdicts in the rape cases will have to be given within three months, with the right to appeal in six months,” he added.
“The police station will be obliged to inform the victims of their legal rights,” Hamid said, adding, “We have made it mandatory that the culprit must be imprisoned for 25 years.”
He further said that rape of minors, as well as the mentally and physically ill, has also become punishable.
In the anti-rape bill, “a provision to conduct DNA tests on both the alleged victim and perpetrator has been added for the first time”, he said. The rape of minors, as well as the mentally and physically ill, would become punishable by death.
But punishment was left to a judge’s discretion when other relatives of the victim forgive the killer – a loophole which critics say is exploited.
Rights groups and politicians have for years called for tougher laws to tackle perpetrators of violence against women in Pakistan and the move follows a slew of high-profile killings in the country.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s ruling PML-N party has a large majority of seats in the lower house and the bills are believed to have enough backing from opposition parties to pass in the senate too.