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The rape register

Rape is a crime universally condemned, yet it remains a crime where the offences committed far outweigh the number of actual cases that occur — and by far outweighs the number successfully prosecuted. In Pakistan rape occurs against a cultural background of shame and dishonour, and reporting levels and successful prosecutions are both low and depressingly small. The figures for rape reported in this newspaper covering the 24-month period between 2007-9 are put at 7,546, or an average of 314 per month.

This is a figure derived from analysis of reports in newspapers as well as figures provided by law-enforcement agencies. This figure appears to be trending upwards in 2008 across the country.

Shocking as the figures are, they almost certainly represent an under-reporting of incidents where rape has occurred — but we also have to view the figures through the prism of the difference between ‘incidence’ and ‘incidents’. Pakistan is moving into what is known as a ‘climate of disclosure’ in relation to the spectrum of sexual offences. This means that more and more offences are being reported, as those against whom the offences are committed are increasingly confident about coming forward to report the crime. As the trend towards disclosure increases, so will the number of reported incidents, which does not mean that the median incidence of rape and other sexual crimes within the population are themselves increasing — just that they are more often reported when they happen. One of the drivers behind the creation of the climate of disclosure is the media, both print and electronic, which is increasingly challenging the cultural taboos against the reporting of sexual offences, and providing a platform for those against whom sexual offences are committed to both present their case and bring pressure on unwilling ‘authorities’ to prosecute where before they would have sought to sweep the matter under the carpet. Paradoxically, it is good news that we are seeing more reports of rape than was historically the case — we would be even more encouraged to see a parallel rise in the successful prosecution of this most heinous of crimes.
Source: The News
Date:11/19/2009

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