The attack and the subsequent demands for better protection of women prompted the government to introduce new legislation, including the establishment of special courts to speed up rape trials and the chemical castration of serial rapists.

Police officers stand guard while an armoured vehicle carrying Abid Malhi leaves following his court appearance in Lahore, Pakistan, October 13, 2020
Police officers stand guard while an armoured vehicle carrying Abid Malhi leaves following his court appearance in Lahore, Pakistan, October 13, 2020 (AP)

A Pakistani court has sentenced two men to death for the gang rape of a woman in front of her children last year alongside a motorway in the eastern city of Lahore, a prosecutor said.

Hafiz Asghar said the verdict in the closely watched, six-month trial of Abid Malhi and his accomplice Shafqat Ali was issued inside the prison where it was held in Lahore. Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta also sentenced the men to 14 years imprisonment, time that must be served before any executions can take place, he said on Saturday. 

The two men would appeal the decision.

They were convicted of gang rape, kidnapping, robbery and terrorism offences, according to a written order released by the judge in the eastern city of Lahore.

According to the prosecutor and police, Malhi and Ali found the woman waiting for help after her car ran out of fuel in September.

She had locked the car doors but the attackers broke a window and dragged her outside where they raped her at gunpoint in front of her terrified children. The men also stole money, jewelry, and bank cards before fleeing.

They were tracked down via mobile phone data, Asghar added, and arrested days after the incident. DNA samples taken from the crime scene matched thiers. The survivor identified the two men during the hearing, and Ali confessed to the crime before a magistrate.

READ MORE: Pakistani police say gang rape suspects identified

Outrage spurs new law

At the time of the gang rape, Lahore police chief Umar Sheikh repeatedly berated the victim for driving at night without a man, adding that no one in Pakistani society would "allow their sisters and daughters to travel alone so late".

Sheikh went on to say the woman – a resident of France – probably "mistook that Pakistani society is just as safe" as her home country.

Thousands took part in protests, demanding justice and an increase in spending on initiatives that improve women's safety, as well as an end to victim blaming.

The attack and the subsequent demands for better protection of women prompted the government to introduce new legislation, including the establishment of special courts to speed up rape trials and the chemical castration of serial rapists.

Chemical castration of rapists involves using drugs to reduce a person's libido. It was backed by the country's Prime Minister Imran Khan but activists said it was unclear how it would act as a deterrent.

Pakistan is a deeply conservative nation where victims of sexual abuse often are too afraid to speak out and criminal complaints are frequently not investigated seriously.

The country has an abysmal rape conviction rate, with official data putting it as low as 0.3 percent.

According to the rights groups Justice Project Pakistan, the number of prisoner executions has fallen in the past few years to 15 in both 2018 and 2019.

Many death sentences are later commuted to life imprisonment terms.

Much of Pakistan lives under a patriarchal code of "honour" that systematises the oppression of women and those who supposedly bring "shame" on the family can be subjected to violence or murder.

READ MORE: Outrage in Pakistan after police chief blames victim of gang rape

Source: TRTWorld and agencies