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How rape victims can get justice

By: Sidrah Roghay

Karachi: Rape leaves the victim traumatised for a long time. Some victims are so shocked that they cannot think straight what course of action they should take to get the culprit punished. So what should a woman do if she is raped? Such victims should preserve their clothes, not take a bath and go to a medico-legal officer as soon as possible, experts say.

Cases of rape are accompanied by violence, and if the survivor knows what to do afterwards, evidence collection becomes much easier. “Even a broken piece of nail or hair can lead to the rapist, after confirmation through a DNA test,” says Abdul Hai, senior representative at the Human Rights Commission Pakistan (HRCP).

This is easier said than done. Often when a rape victim reaches the medico-legal officer she is asked to get an FIR registered before the examination. At the police station there are issues of jurisdiction; the police insist they will only register an FIR if the rape has taken place in their jurisdiction.

The entire process, however, is not a legal requirement. “When a rape victim arrives it is mandatory for the medico-legal officer to conduct a medical examination. After the examination they should inform the respective police station to register an FIR,” says Sumaiya Tariq, a police surgeon.

The traumatised victim finds it a lot easier to narrate the crime to a female police officer. “But it takes 10 hours to arrange for one. Of the three women police stations in Karachi none is allowed to register an FIR without prior permission from the DSP. The DSP unfortunately is a man,” laments Hai.

The result is that rape victims who decide to report the heinous crime face threats to life, social boycott and false accusations. If they continue to fight undeterred they are driven to the point where they have to beg the authorities for the protection of their property and life.

When Kainat Soomro was gang-raped in 2007 she was only 12. Five years later the four men accused of the crime roam around free and her family strives for justice. Just two weeks back, she received a phone call from an unknown phone number. “Take back the case,” said the caller.

“The calls increase every time the court hearing nears,” says Hai. And she has reason to believe that these are not empty threats. There was a time when the family lost all it had back in their hometown, Dadu. They had come to Karachi for a day, and men broke into their house and destroyed the furniture and property. The family never returned. They took refuge in Karachi.

“The Karachi Press Club became our second home. We would shift every other night after these thugs found out our new whereabouts.”

In 2010 Kainat’s brother Sabir Soomro mysteriously disappeared from the court’s premises in Dadu. Three months later his body was found in Khuzdar. The family sat with the body in protest outside the press club, and demanded of the authorities to provide them protection during the funeral. The burial took place under strict security.

The family now lives under police protection. While they cannot step out of their house to earn a living, the women live on income from the sewing and embroidery they do at home.

When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, Kainat says: “I want to punish the rapists. Why did they kill my brother?” Young she might be, but she knows that her fight for her rights may take an entire lifetime.

The News