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Sexual violence, the Hudood Ordinance and the Women’s Protection Act

Did the legislation lead to more rape cases?…

KARACHI: Some people have argued that amendments to the Hudood Ordinance and the Women’s Protection Act (WPA) have led to an “increase in the number of incidents of sexual violence” in the city. The numbers collected from police stations have, however, a different story to tell.

Addressing an anti-WPA rally on Dec 3 last year, Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP) President (and MMA senior vice president), Maulana Shah Anas Noorani had described the bill as an open license for the promotion of “vulgarity, immorality and obscenity in the country”. Many scholars subsequently backed this claim by saying that the bill would “give a free hand to rapists”.

Daily Times reviewed reported cases of rape and sodomy prior to and after the passage of these two pieces of legislation to compare whether they had indeed had an effect on the rate of violence. Data was collected from all 18 towns that fall under the jurisdiction of the City District Government Karachi, as well as Clifton Town. Statistics from 2000 to 2004 (men and women) were obtained from a research study on the medico-legal sector in Karachi, published by Aahung, while those from 2005 to 2007 (women only) were obtained from the statistical branch of the capital city police office.

The data shows a steady percentage increase in the number of cases. There were a total of 205 cases in 2000, 245 cases in 2001 (increase of 19.51 percent), 306 cases in 2002 (increase of 24.90 percent), 390 cases in 2003 (increase of 27.45 percent), 389 in 2004 (0.26 percent decrease), 96 cases in 2005 (305.21 percent decrease), and 111 cases in 2006 (13.51 percent increase). A total of six cases rape have been reported at police stations in Karachi between January and March 2007 (two in January, one in February, and three in March).

A gender breakdown of these figures shows a marked difference. Exactly 178 females (from the age of one onwards) were subjected to sexual violence in Karachi in the year 2000, as opposed to 27 males (from the age of one onwards), 211 females were sexually abused in 2001 (34 males), 263 females in 2002 (43 males), 321 females in 2003 (69 male), and 332 females were the victims of sexual violence in 2004, as opposed to 57 males.

All of these, however, are the number of “reported cases”. The actual number of cases would be far more than this, because a lot of them, according to what an officer on duty at the Gulshan police station told Daily Times, are not reported due to a number of reasons.

Religio-political factions, however, still stand by their claim. “Of course the WPA is not protecting women. The statistics that you’re talking about are not reliable,” Sahebzada Abul Khair Muhammad Zubair, a central leader of the MMA, told Daily Times. “The problem is, a lot of the cases aren’t even registered. If you check that number out, you’ll see that the number of cases of sexual violence are actually increasing.”

When asked what statistics his claim was based on, Zubair said: “You read newspapers. Plus, we have our own survey teams. We get all sorts of information. The statistics that you have are fabricated by the police and other authorities concerned.”

Source: Daily Times

Date:4/7/2007

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