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Average age of rape victims falls to 13

KARACHI: Cases of child abuse have seen a tremendous rise in the city as the average age of rape survivors has fallen from 18 years in the preceding year to just 13 in 2011, according to a report of a non-governmental organisation working against sexual harrasement.

“Neighbourhoods have become increasingly unsafe for children, with cases being reported of victims as young as three-years-old, who often do not survive after being abused. The culprits are generally males, who enjoy a position of trust and live in close proximity to the children,” said Sarah Zaman, Director of the War Against Rape (WAR).

She said that the difference between the first information reports (FIRs) and the medico-legal examinations (MLEs) conducted during the first half of 2011 was alarming. “While only 41 FIRs were registered, 138 such cases were reported in three government hospitals (Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Civil Hospital, and Abbasi Shaheed).”

Sarah said that the reason behind this was that the police did not cooperate with victims and every case reported did not result in the registration of an FIR. “If an FIR is registered then it has to be preceded by an MLE, but every test conducted does not result in an FIR,” she said while explaining the disparity in the statistics.

It was stated that official records showed that as of June 2011, 465 cases of sexual violence (varying categories) were pending in court from the previous years. Of the 2,252 cases of child sexual violence reported in the country, only 38 cases resulted in conviction. Of the 21 cases that WAR personally investigated in the city in 2011, 23 percent of the families had to leave their residence permanently because of the social taboo attached to them. From the cases WAR investigated, 68 percent of the families did not want to go to court.

She also stressed the need to reform the existing laws on sexual harassment. “Rape is one form of sexual violence and Pakistan has only one law for rape. The judiciary should expand the definition of sexual violence so that incest and child molestation can also be included.”

It was mentioned that 70 percent of rape cases are of incest, which means a blood relative has sexually abused the victim. “Yet nothing under the head of incest is included in the Constitution.”

Sub-clause 151 of the Evidence Act says that a man can use “a woman’s bad character” in his defence if accused of rape. “In many countries, such clauses have been abandoned,” she added.

Often, community-based organisations settle offences which are reported to them in their own socially acceptable ways. This may include marrying the victim to the offender and giving physical punishments such as lashings. Nobody knocks on the door of justice, she added.

In her speech, Community Mobilisation and Rehabilitation Support Officer Khalida Ahmed Quadri, who works with victims in the field, explained that they often ask her “what happens to cases which are reported to the police” and in most cases, she has no reply.

WAR blamed the alarming statistics prevalent on the state which chose to ignore the issue of sexual violence.

“A man is scared to enter the police office, so how can a lone woman muster up the courage to report that she has been raped. The culture at police station and hospitals where the MLE is conducted is not at all friendly. There is cat calling and vulgar labels that these women have to endure. The judiciary is not very supportive either,” remarked Quadri.

The journalist community was also criticised for not following up on rape cases. “Why did the JPMC rape case finally result in a compromise? Why did the media not question it further?” asked Quadri.

Source: The News