Islamabad — Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has called for rapists and pedophiles to be publicly hanged or chemically or physically castrated for their crimes after a gang-rape case provoked a nationwide outcry.

Last week a woman was raped by two men after she ran out of gas and her car broke down on a  highway outside of Lahore. The woman called a helpline and was waiting for the police to arrive when the men raped her and robbed her with her two children present, officials said.

Following the incident, Lahore police chief Umar Sheikh faced an angry backlash and calls for his resignation after suggesting the rape was partially the victim’s fault. He said that the victim should have been better prepared for her journey by ensuring her fuel tank was full and travelling along a busier road to her destination.

Sheikh has since apologized for his remarks but has garnered more criticism for not appearing in front of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights after he was directed to do so.

The case has seen an outpouring of anger across the country and has brought sexual violence against women into the national spotlight.

A stunned nation took to the streets in countrywide protests, with those participating holding placards calling for the hanging of rapists. Demonstrators also demanded reforms in law enforcement agencies and the judicial systems handling of such cases.

In a television interview on Monday, the prime minister said that he had discussed punishment options with his cabinet for such cases.

“I think he (the culprit) should be hanged in a public square. Rapists and child molesters should undergo public hanging. You do not know the real statistics as well, because it’s under-reported. People do not report it as they are scared or ashamed, women are ashamed, no one wants to speak.”

Khan acknowledged that public hanging may not be internationally acceptable and could affect Pakistan’s  status in trade relations with the European Union. He suggested instead that sex offenders “undergo chemical castration, or surgery be performed so they cannot do anything in future.”

The main culprit in the case has so far evaded arrest however three of his associates have been detained according to police officials. The investigation is ongoing.

Khan has directed his cabinet to initiate procedures to introduce new legislation in regard to rape and child sexual abuse. On the floor of the National Assembly today, Khan said that his cabinet is working on introducing new measures so that sex offenders realize that there will be serious consequences

For their crimes.

He said that his government is looking into introducing a database and policy where all sex criminals will be registered and tracked. He said that the main suspect in the motorway rape case has been identified by law enforcement as a repeat offender who has been accused of gang rape previously.

Khan acknowledged that rape convictions are not easy to obtain as the evidence required by law is very complex and witnesses or victims are often reluctant to testify in court. He said his cabinet is looking into the possibility of the victims not being required to face their attackers.

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