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Rape and the law

Rape and the law

“All citizens are equal before the law.” This is a statement that is part of our Constitution (Article 25). However, it is nothing but mere marks of ink printed on paper since our society remains male dominated. In matters of court and court complexes, Pakistan is a patriarchal society and, as far as our domestic life is concerned, women again are overshadowed by men who hold authority over them. Women are considered subordinate in our society and this leads to vile crimes against them at the hands of men who consider females the weaker sex and treat them like objects. There is a need to create awareness among the masses to not harass women sexually and physically, and educate men to provide equal rights and respect to women, otherwise violence will see no end. Some examples of atrocities faced by Pakistani women are acid throwing attacks, beatings, honour killings, dowry deaths, forced prostitution and, the most common of all crimes, rape.

According to a study carried out by Human Rights Watch Pakistan (HRWP), there is a rape once every two hours and a gang rape every eight. The issue of rape in Pakistan came to international attention when Mukhtaran Mai, a Pakistani woman from the village of Mirwala, spoke up against her gang rape as a form of honour revenge inflicted upon her in 2002. Since then many women have spoken publicly against the torture forced on them by the opposite and dominant gender. Child sexual abuse is another important issue as far as rape is concerned. The grim reality is such that a large number of minors, mainly girls, are subject to sexual assault, including rape, in Pakistan. A recent case is the rape and murder of a two-year-old in Multan. The police reported that the child was abducted by a man while she was playing outside her home on July 9. The man took her to a nearby deserted house and raped her.

When the child died he abandoned her body there. The child’s family found the body and apprehended the suspect who was still in the vicinity. Residents of the area stated that he was a daily wage labourer. An angry mob tried to kill the man but a police team arrived at the spot and took him into custody. He confessed to the crime and an autopsy report confirmed that the girl had died after being raped. As a result of this case hundreds of residents of Muzaffarabad colony and Defence Housing Authority in Multan held a protest demonstration on Monday and demanded that the alleged rapist be stoned to death.

This is an example of people taking the law into their own hands and demanding a public execution, which is not appropriate since there are punishments already present in the law for such crimes. This reaction and demand represents a sense of distrust of the law. People feel that the law is depriving women of security and failing to protect children, specifically girls, from such dangers in society. This case is one among countless others where justice is hardly ever available to the victims or their families. The public cannot be blamed for making such outrageous demands since it is the inefficiency of the law that has created this sense of insecurity among them. The destiny of a rape victim in Pakistan is such that they become subject to social stigma that lowers them in the eyes of the public, exposing them to a life of torment and discrimination.

The case of Zafran Bibi is an example. In 2001, a woman approached a police station in the village of Kehri Sheikhan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and reported that a man named Akmal Khan had raped her. Upon further investigation the court sentenced her to death by stoning under Pakistan’s Zina (adultery) Ordinance, stating that she was guilty of committing adultery. In this case an innocent victim was manipulated by the country’s judicial system and ended up being the accused while the real culprit was spared. Such examples expose the inherent weaknesses in the investigation system of the law. These females are not just victims of rape; rather they are victims of the law’s failure to give them their rights, victims of little or no social security and victims of an invisible form of justice that they are promised by the law while in reality their pleas are met by increased humiliation and suffering. On such issues, when the law remains silent, the people have no choice but to take matters into their own hands. The law steers clear of the victims and instead protects the rapists. This is what our country’s judicial system has become. Rape victims in Pakistan face unnumbered ordeals when they try to bring their tormentors to justice and the largest obstacle in their way is nothing but the law itself.

Daily Times

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