ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan’s lower house of parliament has adopted a nonbinding resolution calling for public hangings of people convicted of the sexual abuse and murder of children -- a move that was condemned by the opposition and human rights activists.
"Those who commit crimes against children deserve no mercy...They should be hanged in the middle of cities," Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan said on February 7 after presenting the resolution in the National Assembly.
More than half of the lawmakers voted in favor of the resolution, which was supported by the ruling Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf party.
The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) opposed the text, saying that ramping up the severity of punishments would not result in a reduction of sexual abuse of children.
There has been a spike in sexual crimes against children in Pakistan in recent years, triggering street protests and national condemnation, but convictions are rare.
Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry, who is also a National Assembly member, described the resolution as "just another grave act in line with brutal civilization practices.”
Amnesty International said the death penalty was not the answer for the sexual abuse and murder of children, and called public hangings "acts of unconscionable cruelty" that have "no place in a rights-respecting society."
Pakistan lifted a seven-year unofficial moratorium on the death penalty after Islamist militants killed more than 150 people, mostly children, at a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar in December 2014.
Hundreds of prisoners on death row have since been hanged.
Executions "do not deliver justice," Amnesty International's Deputy South Asia Director, Omar Waraich, said in a statement. "They are acts of vengeance and there is no evidence that they serve as a uniquely effective deterrent."
Waraich urged the authorities to "focus their energies on giving children in Pakistan the protection they desperately need through strong safeguarding policies and procedures before abuse happens."
Laws against sexual abuse should be enforced and the perpetrators of abuse against children be held to account through "fair trials without recourse to the death penalty," he said.
Pakistan introduced a law in 2016 criminalizing sexual abuse against minors and child pornography.
The move came after a pedophilia scandal erupted in 2015 following revelations that hundreds of pornographic videos of children from a village in Punjab Province were being circulated. Arrests were made, but only the acts of rape and sodomy were punishable by law at that time.
There were 3,832 reported cases of child abuse during 2018, according to the nongovernmental organization Sahil.