A large number of people jammed a highway near Nasirabad in protest against the gang rape of a nomad woman allegedly by three policemen the other day. The rape victim was collecting firewood near the highway when three policemen forcibly took her away in a vehicle and gang raped her. The protestors claimed that police personnel of the area are involved in many other criminal activities, including sexual assault. This act of sheer brutality is not a new one. The occurrence of violence against women is widespread in Pakistan. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimates that a rape occurs in Pakistan every two hours and a gang rape every eight hours. The real statistics are even more chilling as most cases go unreported.
Many victims are shamed into silence for fear of being ostracised by society and they never go to the authorities to seek justice. If women muster up the courage to knock at the doors of justice, they the victims end up being blamed for inciting the violence against them. Society thus sprinkles salt on their wounds. In 95 percent cases, rapists remain at large and if police do manage to arrest them, they walk free with minimal punishment whereas the victims are left with lifelong humiliation, shame and social opprobrium. It is precisely because very few rape cases lead to conviction that the law fails to provide effective deterrence. When the law enforcers break the law themselves, the frustrated citizens of the country will finally be left with no option but to take the law into their own hands. The inability to get justice is why we see incidents of victims attempting public self-immolation or using other means to commit suicide. Justice has to be the cornerstone of every society. Denial of basic rights induces a sense of deprivation, which ultimately leads to frustration. If there is no implementation of the law, this is an invitation to social chaos.
There is a need to improve the system of administration of justice. We must revamp our law enforcing institutions. Accusers must be taken seriously and claims investigated aggressively. Rape is a savage and cruel act. It is time to weed out the rapists from our society. It is time to end the culture of silence and cover-up. More broadly, we must work on changing a culture in which women are routinely devalued.
Speedy convictions and awareness campaigns is the answer to the problem. This is an issue that should be addressed at state level to reduce the barbarity perpetrated against women in all corners of Pakistan.
Women should no longer see themselves as victims, but as survivors, no matter what their ordeal.