Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday suggested that convicted rapists undergo surgical castration when he was asked about the recent gang rape of a woman on a highway.
Two armed men raped the woman on a deserted highway after her car ran out of gas late at night last week near the city of Lahore, the capital of the province of Punjab. Police said she had locked the car doors and phoned for help, but the attackers broke a window and dragged her outside, where they raped her in front of her children.
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One suspect, whom police identified as Shafqat Ali, was arrested Monday. The second suspect, Abid Malhi, remains on the run.
Khan, in an interview with local TV station 99 NEWS, said Malhi was involved in another gang rape in 2013. He said he was looking into surgical castration, saying the country needed new legislation to permanently sterilize those linked to such crimes.
“The way there is first-degree, second-degree, third-degree murder, this [rape] should be graded in the same way, and when there is first-degree [rape], castrate them,” Khan said. “Operate on them and make them unable to do this.”
Khan first proposed public executions when speaking to the station, according to Reuters, but said officials told him the punishment could jeopardize Pakistan’s preferential trade status granted by the European Union.
Khan’s comments come as news of the assault sent shockwaves throughout Pakistan. Scores of protesters descended on the streets in several cities, including Islamabad and Karachi, denouncing attacks on women.
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Gang rape is rare in Pakistan, although sexual harassment and violence against women are frequently reported. Nearly 1,000 women are killed in Pakistan each year in so-called “honor killings” for allegedly violating conservative norms on love and marriage.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.