ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Pakistani government dropped a controversial clause allowing for chemical castration of convicted rapists from a proposed bill, after a council of clerics said such a punishment was against Islam, a lawmaker from the ruling party said Friday.
Maleeka Bukhari from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party said the state-run clerical council, which advises the government on religious issues, had at the last minute advised that the clause be deleted.
The clause was dropped before the draft bill was sent to parliament for voting, she added.
Earlier on Wednesday, the government had backed dozens of bills in a hurry, and some local media incorrectly reported that the castration clause was approved. Rights group Amnesty International promptly denounced the bill in a statement, saying it was a “cruel and retrograde step.”
Bukhari said such punishment would also violate the constitution and added that the law minister, Farogh Naseem, had also suggested the clause be excluded. She did not explain why the government waited for two days to clarify that the draft clause was dropped, especially in light of widely published but incorrect media reports that it had passed.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government had pushed a flurry of dozens of draft bills to lawmakers for a vote Wednesday seeking to prevent opposition lawmakers from staging a prolonged and detailed debate on each of the bills.
The castration clause was quietly removed from the documents before the bill was put before lawmakers.
Sexual crimes against women and children are common in Pakistan, where many of the victims never come forward because of the stigma attached to the assault in the conservative Muslim society. Many children are also sexually abused by clerics at religious schools, or madrassas, and such cases have surfaced in large numbers in recent years.
Last year, the gang rape of a woman who was driving alone on a highway at night with her children when her car broke down near the city of Lahore had shocked many in Pakistan and prompted nationwide protests. The prime minister suggested at the time public hanging and chemical castration as punishment for rapists.
Chemical castration for sexual offenders is the use of drugs to lower the level of male hormones in men and quell their sex drive.
The gang raped woman’s attackers were later sentenced to death, but have appealed the sentences. Such trials and appeals typically take years in Pakistan and many of the sentences are eventually overturned because of flaws in assault laws. Khan’s government is now seeking to speed up the proceedings from years to months.