While crime of all kinds has risen in the country, according to a report from the National Crisis Management Cell submitted to the Senate Standing Committee on Interior, the upsurge in cases of rape has been especially marked. According to the data submitted to the committee, these have been especially high in Punjab, where the police registered 8,806 of the country’s total of 10,703 rape cases. Twenty-two rape cases were registered in Gigit-Baltistan, 86 in Balochistan, 295 in Islamabad, 722 cases in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and an equal number in Sindh.
The rise can be attributed to the fact that more women are stepping forward to report rape. This would also go to explain the high figures in Punjab, as it has the highest rates of education, making it more likely that women would report cases of rape. The increase in the number of cases reported from conservative areas, including Balochistan and K-P, is also encouraging. But at the same time, it is worth noting that NGOs monitoring rape continue to believe that due to the social stigma attached to rape, the majority of cases that occur continue to go unreported. This is unfortunate, but we need to examine also if factors beyond social taboo are involved. Do women who report rape receive the emotional and psychological support they need — and do laws work for them?
The recent questions raised by the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) on the admissibility of DNA as primary evidence in rape cases highlight this. Naturally, if DNA is not used, convicting perpetrators becomes harder. Women also run the social risk of being accused of adultery if they cannot prove rape. This would become a bigger legal hazard if the CII’s recommendations on law, amending the Hudood Ordinance of 1979, were followed. All these matters need careful review so that reporting rape — a difficult task for women — can be made easier and support systems developed to help them through what remains a traumatic process for all victims.