A woman is raped every 2 hours in Pakistan. How long are we going to let that continue?

A majority of rape victims are forced to be silent so as to protect their family’s honour

On November 21, 2015, in Rawalpindi, 24-year-old Tahmina Kausar, a student of Quaid-i-Azam University’s Department of Defence and Strategic Studies and a Central Superior Services (CSS) aspirant was raped and killed by her ‪‎Facebook friend ‪‎Umair Makki. The Facebook friend wanted to marry her but on her refusal, he raped and killed her, throwing her down from the third storey of a building. In Taxila Punjab, a 13-year-old Halima Sadia was raped and made five months pregnant by her relative Ashfaq. Similar tragedies occur in our society recurrently. In September 2015, Safia Bibi, a deaf and dumb Christian woman, was raped at gunpoint in her house in village Gonda Ganda Singh Wala near Kasur. Her rapist has been granted bail because she could not produce evidence of her rape. Regrettably, a mammoth number of such incidents take place owing to multiple factors and are not reported for various reasons in our society.

Even though, the fact is that rape is a serious crime punishable by death, yet frequency of rape incidents is persisting in Pakistan due to dysfunctional mechanism of law enforcement. The judicial system and police infrastructure, due to complicated legal requirements, have not been playing the expected role and have not produced fruitful results to control this vicious crime.  As a result, the perpetrators have been damaging innocent lives, tarnishing their social status and ruining their honour in the society without any fear of punishment. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), an incident of rape occurs every two hours and an innocent victim is gang-raped every four to eight days. The reports are serious blot on the Islamic society of Pakistan.

From sociological perspective, the informal social control mechanism is more effective than formal social control mechanism to ensure conformity of social norms and moral values. It is the individuals who disapprove deviant behaviours through anger, criticism and protests to bring about social justice and peace in society. But I feel ashamed having seen a wicked and deep-rooted tradition of silence surrounding the phenomenon of rape in Pakistan. It is incomprehensible why the general public is reluctant to express its anger against, and condemnation of, this inhuman social vice which affects our daughters and sisters and results in an unwarranted blot on their life and honour.

In fact, a majority of rape victims are forced to be silent so as to protect their family’s honour and their own social lives. Thus, they do not report the crime committed against them. But when a woman, despite enormous social pressures and stigmas, has the courage to report a rape, she still cannot seek justice due to lack of proper implementation of the law and apposite deterrence for culprits. The inability and inefficiency of the state to provide justice to the victims, restrain the majority of victims from reporting their tragedies. In this situation, they prefer to remain silent. In this way, a culture of rape remains unleashed in the society. 

Safia Bibi is unable to seek justice due to legal obstacles. According Mr Saleem Iqbal, the director of Care Council of Human Rights, Safia Bibi not only identified her rapist but also narrated the whole incident by sign language to file her testimony. Besides the accused M Umar has confessed his crime but the medical test has been declared indefensible, since there is no mark of force being used and rape cannot be ascertained because she is a married woman. The other issue is that DNA could not be preserved as it was raining on the day of incident and the woman was soaked wet on way to the police station resulting in the evidence being washed away.

No doubt, it’s a moral and social obligation on every citizen, but human rights and gender rights activists especially have to initiate campaigns to bring the issue in front of the state machinery. And it is high time the state machinery felt responsible for revamping and reforming the existing laws in line with the international standards, in order to protect the lives and honour of the victims.

Female parliamentarians can play an effective role, if not in elimination, at least in reduction of rape incidents. And yet they have been reluctant to raise voice in this matter throughout parliamentarian history.

Shaikh Abdul Rasheed is a social activist and researcher. Follow him on Twitter

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