Pakistan’s parliament recently passed a resolution calling for public hanging of convicted child killers and rapists. Many human right experts, however, have called public hangings as an act of extreme cruelty which has no place in a civilized society.
The resolution follows a flood of high-profile child sex-abuse cases that have triggered outrage and unrests across Pakistan in recent years. Should New Delhi follow Pakistan given that India is itself plagued by thousand of such cases?
Ali Muhammad Khan, Pakistan’s parliamentary affairs minister, presented the resolution in the national assembly and stated – ‘ they should not only be given the death penalty by hanging, but they should be hanged publicly,’ ‘ Khan added ‘The Quran commands us that a murderer should be hanged.’
India is no stranger to incidents of rape and child killings. In January of 2018, an 8-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir was brutally raped and murdered. She was allegedly kidnapped, confined using sedatives and repeatedly gang-raped before being strangled and hit with a heavy stone. In the same year as the Kashmir incident, authorities hanged a child rapist in an infamous case in Kasur, Pakistan, that had previously sparked nationwide protests.
What punishments exist in India?
While Rape itself is a non-bailable crime in India, however, lack evidence can get you a bail. Child sexual abuse is prosecuted under the following sections of Indian Penal Code, I.P.C. 375- Rape, I.P.C. 354- outraging the modesty of a woman.
However, in 2012, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences commonly known as the POCSO Act came into the picture. This helps to provide a robust legal framework for the protection of children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography while safeguarding the interest of the child at every stage of the judicial process.
According to an NCRB report, 51,499 which formulates 90% of the child rape cases, as of 2017, were pending in India. On the other side, incidents of child-killing and rapes can be seen taking place at an exponential rate. Question arises whether India should turn to a drastic measure just as Pakistan?
Is everyone in Favour of Pakistan’s Lower House resolution?
Although in Pakistan, a majority of lawmakers approved the resolution, on the flip side human rights minister Shireen Mazari stressed that the resolution was not sponsored by the government.
The resolution ‘on public hangings was across party lines and not a govt-sponsored resolution but an individual act. Many of us oppose it – our MOHR (Ministry of Human Rights) opposes this,’ She tweeted. As of now, there is no crime which is punishable by public execution in Pakistan.
Pakistan, in fact, did not have any laws, especially for minors. It was only in March 2016 that Pakistan introduced a law criminalising sexual assault against minors, child pornography and trafficking. Formerly, only acts of rape and sodomy were punishable by law.
Human rights organisations have long called on Pakistan to restore a suspension on the death penalty, which had been lifted after the Army Public School massacre in Peshawar in 2014 that killed 151 people, mostly students.
Responding to this resolution, Omar Waraich, Amnesty International’s Deputy South Asia Director commented on the issue saying, “The sexual abuse and murder of children are among the most horrific crimes, but the death penalty is not a solution. Public hangings are acts of unconscionable cruelty and have no place in a rights-respecting society.
‘Lawmakers in Pakistan need to look at the facts – there is no evidence anywhere in the world that capital punishment deters crime any more than prison, and the grisly spectacle of public executions will be no different,’ he added. ‘Public executions, which are thankfully now very rare in the world, are a throwback to a crueller age. Pakistan should focus on proper child protection and crime prevention measures.’
‘There is no empirical evidence to show that public hangings are a deterrent to crime or in protecting the psycho-social well-being of children’, Sarah Belal, executive director of Justice Project Pakistan, a non-profit group campaigning against the death penalty said.
What is next for the resolution?
It was Gen Ziaul Haq who first called for public hangings to primarily make it serve as deterrence for future crimes. But research tells otherwise. A 2016 study, titled “The Fall of Capital Punishment and the Rise of Prisons: How Punishment Severity Affects Jury Verdicts”, authors Bindler and Hjalmarsson claimed that there is little or no evidence of a deterrence effect of such a punishment.
David Phillips’s study on the restrictive effect of publicized London executions in the latter half of the 19th century to find it has no long-term impact to stop the objectionable crimes.
Pakistan has the death penalty but all executions are carried out inside jail. The resolution was overwhelmingly supported by parliament but will not be passed into law as it is against international human rights laws as according to the convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Moreover, Pakistan’s obsession with public hanging is worrisome.