Justice in Pakistan may be slow but there is a chance that with a lot of luck, courage and perseverance, it may eventually arrive. Kainat Soomro was viciously gang-raped back in 2007, when she was only 13 years old and has been on a quest for justice ever since. She credibly accused four men of the crime but instead was declared “kari” herself for dishonouring tribal customs. Unlike most young girls, Kainat did not succumb to brutal societal pressure, instead she lodged a case against the four men she accused of the rape in Dadu. For another three years, she fought a doomed legal battle at the sessions court but ultimately, the men were acquitted because of supposedly conflicting evidence. Even then Kainat was not deterred. She then went to the Sindh High Court where finally, after two more years of legal hell, the arrest of the four men has been ordered. It may have taken far too long but it seems like she may get a measure of justice.
The one thing her long saga should not lead us to do is believe that our justice system is working well. That this case has gone as far as this is due solely to Kainat’s heroism. She was rebuffed by both society and the judiciary but refused to be treated as a citizen without any rights. What should have been her natural rights at birth was instead something she had to fight for. The court’s belated realisation of its duties shows not that the judiciary is functional but that it has to be shamed into action.
While Kainat might have an opportunity for closure as her rapists are put behind bars, the same cannot be said for countless other rape survivors in the country. Perceived shame and tradition lead to most rape cases not being reported. Then, despite being illegal, jirgas and the like continue to enjoy popular support and patronage from local bigwigs and have absolutely no interest in the rights of women. The courts are lethargic and rarely empathetic. Society at large has little understanding of the causes and effects of rape. In Pakistan, Kainat is the honourable exception, not the general rule.