Under legislation, maximum sentence for anyone found guilty of child sexual abuse has been raised to life imprisonment
Pakistan’s Senate on Wednesday passed The Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Bill 2020, designed to aid in the reporting and recovery of missing and abducted children.
The bill, named for seven-year-old Zainab Ansari, was approved by the Upper House of Parliament two years after the brutal rape and murder of the Kasur child provoked nationwide outrage and calls for better protection of children.
Moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Azam Khan Swati, the bill was passed after a brief discussion. The National Assembly had already approved it in January.
Under the bill, which applies on the Islamabad Capital Territory, mechanisms would be put in place for a speedy system for alerts, responses, recoveries, investigations, trails and rehabilitation to prevent and curb criminal activities against children. It would also seek collaboration between all agencies and institutions tasked with the protection of children.
Per the new legislation, the maximum sentence for anyone found guilty of child sexual abuse would be life imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 1 million; the minimum sentence would be 10 years.
The bill also allows for the creation of the Zainab Alert Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA), which would be headed by a director general appointed by the prime minister and would be staffed by competent officials skilled in managing databases, conducting planning and monitoring of programs, analyzing data, preparing reports and coordinating with other agencies.
The bill also proposes taking action against police officials who cause unnecessary delays in investigating child abuse and abduction cases, adding that those who fail to respond to the alert within two hours may also face action.
Also on Wednesday, the Senate passed The University of Islamabad Bill 2020, which envisages the establishment of a new university catering to the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Per the bill, the university would provide education and scholarships in any branches of knowledge it deems fit. It would also provide for research, service to society and for the application, advancement and dissemination of knowledge in accordance with the guidelines of professional accreditation councils.
The university would be open to all persons regardless of gender, religion, race, creed, class, color or domicile. The bill also proposes that the university offer programs Management Science, Computer Science, International Relations and Mathematics.
International Women’s Day
During the session on Wednesday, the House also adopted a resolution to recognize International Women’s Day as a time to celebrate the courage and determination of women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries.
It reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to adopting measures to achieve gender equality and appreciated the political, economic, social and cultural achievements and contributions of Pakistani women from all walks of life.