Pakistan's president has issued a much-awaited law requiring the establishment of special courts to speedily conclude trials of people charged with rape.
President Arif Alvi approved the Anti-Rape Ordinance 2020, his office tweeted on December 15, adding that it "will help expedite cases of sexual abuse against women and children."
The law goes into effect immediately but must be ratified by parliament within 120 days.
It follows the gang rape of a mother in front of her children earlier this year that has triggered national outrage and led to protests across the country.
Victims of sex crimes find it hard to get justice in conservative Pakistan, where such crimes carry a social stigma.
Faulty investigations and flawed laws also mean that rape cases often drag on for years and make it difficult for victims to come forward to share their ordeal.
The new law orders the establishment of special courts to try cases of rape and sexual abuse against women and children, and requires courts to conclude the trials within four months.
It also creates a nationwide registry of rape offenders and prohibits the identification of rape victims.
Leading Pakistani English-language newspaper Dawn reported that, under the new legislation, any official who shows negligence in investigating rape cases could face three years in prison.
The paper also reported that repeat rapists could be chemically castrated.
The law, first put forward by Prime Minister Imran Khan, comes after two assailants raped a woman in front of her children on the side of a deserted highway near the eastern city of Lahore in September.
The trial of the two suspects is still under way.
Suspects found guilty of raping women and children potentially face a death sentence in Pakistan.