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Plight of rape victims

In a report detailing horrifying statistics of sexual violence cases in Karachi, Karachi-based NGO War Against Rape (WAR) has revealed that the average age of rape survivors in the city has decreased from 18 years to 13 years.

Corresponding to this fact, the number of sexual assaults against children has increased in the first six months of 2011.

Sexual violence against women and children is a nation-wide malaise, which is grossly under-reported, primarily because of the judgmental attitude of society against the rape survivor.

According to the Aurat Foundation’s bi-annual report on violence against women, almost 1,000 cases of rape were reported in 2010.

Of the 1,000 cases of sexual violence reported in 2010, almost 80 percent were from Punjab followed by Sindh with negligible number of cases from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

This break-up does not necessarily reflect higher frequency of sexual violence against women in Punjab.

Stricter local customs and stronger stigma attached to “dishonouring” women are big factors behind under-reporting of violence in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

In addition to that, there are other studies, which demonstrate that the number of children who survive rape is higher than adult survivors.

According to the WAR statistics, 67 percent of rape survivors in Karachi were under the age of 16.

But more shockingly, a staggering 50 percent of rape survivors were even younger than 12-year-old teenagers.

These statistics are based on the cases reported in hospitals, police stations and the media.

Thus the actual number can easily be much higher than the available records as many of the incidents go unreported.

The conviction rate in sexual violence cases is abysmally low.

Most of the cases don’t even get to the court.

The WAR statistics show that out of the 138 medico-legal exams conducted in 2010, only 27 cases went for trial.

These figures are demonstrative of the overwhelmingly negative attitude of the police against rape survivors.

In fact, according to an Interior Ministry report submitted to the National Assembly last year, in the preceding three years, the incidents of torture and rape by police officials had increased 60 percent.

Such abuse by law enforcement personnel is enough to deter many survivors from coming forward to seek justice.

It also acts as an enabler for future rapists who are emboldened by survivors’ reluctance to report the crime, and woefully low conviction rate.

Research has shown an average 3 percent conviction rate in such cases since 2003.

We need to not only to overhaul our prosecution system but also change the attitude of general society towards rape survivors.

In such an overwhelmingly patriarchal society, women survivors need constant support on moral and legal levels so they can fight the battle for justice.

There is also a need to improve the legal definition of rape to include child molestation, incest, and non-penetrative abuse.

Studies show that most of the rapists are close associates of the survivors.

But social stigma forces most of such families to not pursue charges and even change their places of residence, thus feeding into the culture of sexual violence.

Lastly, one often over-looked aspect in sexual violence is the percentage of men, mainly younger boys, who also become victim of these hideous crimes.

As WAR reports confirms, of all the sexual violence cases reported in Karachi in 2010, 14 percent were male rape survivors.

Although, the percent of female survivors is drastically high, care must also be taken to provide emotional support to these survivors.

Source: Business Recorder

Date:11/13/2011

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