Violence against women and children has become an insidious problem of alarming proportions and a recent study has revealed that many have fallen victim to incest, which some experts say has a more damaging psychological effect than rape.
These observations were made at the launch of three books titled With an End in Sight Incest in Pakistan: A Legal & Socio-cultural Analysis, The Criminal Justice System and Rape: An Attitudinal Study of the Public Sector’s Response to Rape in Karachi and Sexual Violence and The Law in Pakistan.
Studies that were quoted on the occasion were conducted by War against Rape (WAR) in collaboration with the Collective fir Social Science Research, an independent think tank based in Karachi.
Apart from gang-rape, rape and assault, there are other, lesser recognised forms of sexual violence such as forced marriages, forced abortions and forced prostitution as well as trafficking for commercial sex trade.
Citing the Violence Against Women (VAW) report by the Aurat Foundation, the study said there were a total 1,002 sexual assault and rape/gang rape cases against women reported across Pakistan in 2010.
A 2011 report by the same agency claims that eight women were raped in Pakistan everyday and half of them were minors.
“A report by Pakistani NGO Sahil says that 2,252 cases of child abuse were reported all over the country in 2011, while there were 138 cases of incest. Of these, 24 cases were those where the perpetrator was an immediate relation of the survivor (including the father or brother), whereas 114 were those where committed by relatives (cousins, uncles and others.)
“A large portion of these unreported cases comprise inter and intra-familial sexual abuse, perpetrated most commonly against very young children, particularly minor girls i.e. under the age of 16, and by someone who holds a position of authority and is trusted by the child. These kinds of cases are called incestuous sexual abuse, incestuous rape or simply incest, the study said.
Citing Dr Asha Bedar, a psychologist the study said girls who have suffered incest over a long period of time often develop borderline personality disorders and display other symptoms including low self-esteem, low self-respect and difficulty in trusting people, which later lead to relationship issues, particularly where intimacy is involved.
Dr Bedar notes that a survivor of incest could recover from the trauma if they were given support and have other positive experiences — such as some form of achievement — in their lives. On the other hand, survivors who belong to low-income families, who are not educated and do not possess any vocational skills were most likely to not recover from the trauma, Dr Bedar said.
Senior researcher at the Collective for Social Science Research Ayesha Khan said “marital rape is a reality in Pakistan.”