Face mask use
Wearing a face mask is the easiest of the Covid safety precautions — and the most useful too. Unfortunately though, this preventive measure is being neglected the most by people in our country who only wear a face mask when they are forced to — like by a policeman on the road or by the doorman outside a bank or a shopping mall. Men mostly carry it in their pockets, and women keep it safe in their purses. Motorists have it displayed on the dashboards of their vehicles.
Experts say the coronavirus can be spread simply through speaking, and according to a study, we spray thousands of droplets invisible to the naked eye into the air just by uttering the words “stay healthy”. A face mask is thus the best protection when one has no other option but to stay in close proximity with others, like on a passenger bus or in a classroom. This is why many countries have imposed heavy fines on mask violation. Some even show a zero tolerance, subjecting the violators to jail sentences.
In our country, new guidelines issued by the NCOC early this month included a Rs100 fine for not wearing a face mask in the public, but there is little to no implementation in this regard. Face mask is nearly completely ignored — rather spurned. We have even seen people avoiding this most important piece of safety even in most threatening situations — like during huge political gatherings, putting their lives and those of others in danger.
With the coronavirus infection peaking again — evident from the daily new cases having exceeded 3,000 and the deaths nearing 60 — the need for the people to follow the SOPs, including the use of face mask, assumes even greater significance. Thus the authorities must avoid being lenient with people, as has been the case thus far, and make sure that they wear face mask while in public.
Rape: harsher penalties
The government recently announced its plans to introduce new harsher penalties for rape and other sexual offenses. While some may appreciate the renewed focus on such crimes, we believe this is just a show, and a bad one at that. We were told as children that prevention is better than cure, but unfortunately, the government has done little to actually address the root causes of sexual crimes and is only looking at punitive measures. Although the plan to create a registry of sex offenders is welcome, it is probably the only part of the announcement that appears sensible.
Indeed, the government’s cure also seems terribly thought out, like a doctor that would rather amputate than treat because it takes less time. While the death penalty is, unfortunately, an all-too-common tool in the arsenal of the Pakistani judiciary, it has also been proven to have little to no impact, domestically and internationally, on reducing crime. Life imprisonment will also be introduced. This is probably a better alternative, especially since — considering evidence from abroad — it is usually easier to reach the threshold for convictions for this penalty. It is generally accepted that someone hanged after being wrongfully convicted will not significantly benefit from having a verdict overturned.
The most audacious penalty suggested, however, is chemical castration. The PM had suggested this, and public hanging during a TV interview soon after the motorway gang-rape case. We are unsure if this is a Trumpian measure whereby policymakers have to come up with something based on throwaway comments by the prime minister. Forced chemical castration is frowned upon and even banned in most countries that respect human rights. Law Minister Farogh Naseem tried to give the example of the US as a country where it is done, but even there, it has been withdrawn in all but a handful of ‘backwards’ states. Also, why ordinances? Why not debate and improve the proposals in parliament and make a ‘real’ law instead of this clearly rushed attempt to work around the people’s house?
Rise in smuggling