ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan’s parliament approved a bill Saturday allowing the use of chemical castration in cases where rape victims have children.
Dr. Sajjad Hussain, the top medical official in Punjab, called the bill a historic event for victims of sexual assault and for the country’s legal system.
“It will be a great comfort to the victims, while bringing justice to the perpetrators,” he said.
The bill — later endorsed by Prime Minister Imran Khan and signed into law — replaces a 2002 law that banned chemical castration, but allowed the practice when minors or in cases where a person is convicted of multiple rapes. The new law puts a cap on the number of rapists and abortions for girls below 15. The age at which a girl can legally marry remains 12.
Abortion is illegal in most of Pakistan and some parts of the country perform abortions using sharpshooters or in other ways. A change in the law would give victims a chance to terminate pregnancies.
The bill also addresses the issue of ‘sex selective’ abortions, where doctors aim to abort girls instead of boys for example. The law requires medical experts to report and report illegal abortion practices in the country.
Since the country’s founding in 1947, it has had a strict blasphemy law on the books, which threatens criminal punishment to anyone who defames Islam or Islamic’s Prophet Muhammad.
The law also contains vague wording that carries the possibility of punishing even individuals who do not directly commit blasphemy. There have been several cases in recent years where suspects have been charged under the blasphemy law for having a political viewpoint critical of Islam. Critics charge the law has been used as a tool for persecution and oppression.