By Mubasher Bukhari and Umar Farooq
LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) – A second suspect was remanded in custody on Tuesday after being detained by police in Pakistan following the gang rape of a woman that has led to protests across the country.
The woman’s rape last month, beside a major road after her car ran out of fuel while she was driving her two children, has also led to new calls for tougher punishment for sexual assaults against women and children across the region.
One suspect was arrested last month. The second was arrested on Monday when he tried to contact his family after a manhunt.
A judge ordered the second suspect be kept in custody when he appeared in an Anti-Terrorism Court in the eastern city of Lahore.
Police will now draw up charges against both the suspects. They could include robbery, rape and terrorism charges that could carry a death sentence.
Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh are considering harsher punishments for sexual offences following public indignation over high=profile cases.
In February, Pakistani lawmakers considered introducing public hanging of those convicted of the sexual abuse and murder of children.
Last month, Prime Minister Imran Khan said the proposal had been dropped because it could have meant Pakistan would lose preferential trade status with the European Union. Instead, he said he would propose chemical castration of those convicted in the most brutal rape cases.
Following protests over a series of rape cases, Bangladesh on Tuesday increased the maximum punishment for rape to death. It had been life imprisonment.
“The rapists are beasts as they exhibit their inhumane nature affecting our girls,” Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said.
Fewer than 3 percent of sexual assault or rape cases result in a conviction in Pakistan, according to the Karachi-based group War Against Rape.
Statistics across countries were difficult to compare, Heather Barr, Interim Co-director of the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch told Reuters.
“But we can comfortably say most victims don’t report the crime, and when they do it rarely leads to a conviction,” she said.
She expressed concern that Pakistan, India and Bangladesh were turning to the death penalty for rape cases despite the practice having no proven effect as a deterrent and the risk of convicting innocent individuals.
(Reporting by Mubasher Bukhari in Lahore, Umar Farooq in Islamabad, and Ruma Paul in Dhaka, Editing by Timothy Heritage)
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