THE merciless violence suffered by women in this country is evident in cases of ‘honour’ crime, premeditated murder and acid attacks — often inflicted by perpetrators known to them. Take the case of Khadija Siddiqui. Last year, the young law student was stabbed 23 times in Lahore by a fellow student. Although she miraculously survived the attack, it left her with wounds that required 200 stitches. This week, Ms Siddiqui learnt that she would be sitting her final exams at the same time as her attacker. Disturbingly, the alleged attacker, the son of an advocate, is on post-arrest bail granted by a sessions court in December 2015. As a victim of a gruesome crime, not only has Ms Siddiqui suffered tremendous physical and psychological trauma but now must relive memories of this assault as she may come face to face with her attacker, who had stabbed her in the presence of her six-year-old sister. Ironically, instead of the justice system punishing the alleged perpetrator, he is about to sit his exams for entry into the legal fraternity that is supposed to uphold the rule of law and work towards the protection of human life. This is a travesty of justice; it also demonstrates a lack of respect for and apathy towards women victims.
Documenting cases of more than 2,500 women victims of violence in 2016, a recent HRCP report has noted no significant decline in violence against women. This calls for strengthening legislative mechanisms and protection systems for women. With incriminating evidence including video footage of the attack, Ms Siddiqui’s case must be re-examined so that justice is served and her alleged attacker, known for his violent behaviour, does not walk free — despite reports that powerful quarters are trying to influence the outcome of the case. The practice of silencing women victims and coercing them to withdraw court cases must stop. The state must ensure that legislation such as the Punjab Protection Against Violence Act, 2016 is implemented to protect them.