Dawn News

Rape victims denied justice in Pakistan

This photograph taken on February 28, 2011, shows Rehana Yasmin (L) sitting at vocational training centre for women at a shelter set up by Mukhtar Mai to protect helpless women in the village of Mirwala. - Photo by AFP

MIRWALA: Rehana Yasmin thought the kindly women had come to help her after floods devastated her village. Instead they passed her on to two men – who raped her at gunpoint.

The 19-year-old student said three women took her from her home in the central Pakistani district of Rajanpur last summer, saying aid was being distributed for flood victims and they would get her food.

“But they took me to another house away from my home and handed me over to two sons of one of the women,” a tearful Yasmin told AFP, her eyes reddening behind her black veil.

The men forced her to sign marriage papers at gunpoint and then raped her twice, telling her it was in revenge for her father being nominated to a village committee to help victims of the worst floods in the country's history.

“They had a feud with my father who had just been appointed as a member of the relief committee of our village,” she said.

“They wanted to teach him a lesson. They told me: 'if he can't protect his daughter, he can't help the village either'.” In deeply conservative rural Pakistan, women often remain seen as the subjects of their men folk, to be defiled by their rivals, or killed to maintain their honour.

Almost a thousand women were raped in Pakistan during 2010 while more than 2,000 were abducted and almost 1,500 murdered, according to the Aurat Foundation, an organisation working for the protection of women in the country.

A further 500 were the victims of “honour killings”or Karo-kari, a custom under which relatives and other fellow tribesmen kill a woman if they believe she had an affair. And Gulshan Bibi narrowly avoided this fate after an enemy of her father accused her of adultery.

“When a Karo-kari is declared, it is not the facts that count but the accusations,” she said.

“When someone is accused of adultery, even if the person is innocent, she knows she can be killed. Sometimes, if a woman smiles at a man, she is declared Kari by enemies who are going to complain to the tribal chief.” Gulshan, from Sindh province, may have escaped with her life – but she was kidnapped and raped after being declared Karo-kari when her father refused to obey the orders of a local feudal lord.

Refusing to hand her over to tribal “justice”, her father moved his daughter away to, he hoped, safety – but she was kidnapped by a chieftain who imprisoned and raped her for a year.

The police eventually freed her but she later gave birth to the rapist's daughter.

“Even my husband did not support me and teamed up with the tribal chief,” she said from her bed, finally finding safety in a women's shelter. “I was kept with many other girls, I even saw a few of them getting murdered.” The suffering of Pakistan's women is writ large in more terrible statistics released ahead of the centenary of International Women's Day, an annual global celebration of female achievement.

In Pakistan, over 600 women committed suicide. Another 70, aside from rape victims, were sexually assaulted while almost 500 reported domestic violence.

Among the victims, 70 were burnt or had acid thrown at them, according to the Aurat Foundation, which campaigns for women's rights.

“The figures present a grim picture of the overall state of affairs regarding violence against women in the country,” the foundation said in its annual report.

There were 8,000 offences against women last year, but activists say the true number could be far higher.

“The main issue in Pakistan is the poor implementation of law, there is no rule of law, people manipulate the law,” said Rabeea Haadi, the Aurat Foundation's national coordinator.

The shelter where Gulshan has finally found refuge, which sits next to lush green fields, was set up by Mukhtar Mai – near the spot where she herself was raped nine years ago.

She now helps protect women facing threats at the hands of influential men.

“There are dozens of cases like Yasmin and Bibi,” she said. “We can't fight against such incidents until we establish a fair judicial system and all the victims get justice.” Mukhtar Mai was raped by four people on the orders of a jirga, or tribal court, in 2002 and is still fighting for justice – the Supreme Court reserved the final decision in her case last month.

Activists are unhappy with the government's efforts to improve the situation for female victims in the country.

“Almost 85 per cent of Pakistani women are subject to domestic violence at least once in their lifetime and most repeatedly during their life,” said Tahira Abdullah, the country's leading female rights activist.

“The police stations are on the payroll of the feudal and the tribal chieftains, if a woman is kidnapped and raped or gang-raped by a son of a feudal landlord and his friends, who is she going to go to?” – AFP

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Comments (14) Closed

Mar 08, 2011 01:19pm
Where is Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and his promises to bring relief to Pakistanis?
rk singh
Mar 08, 2011 02:18pm
Instead of publishing this type of news, Dawn should publish if the rape victim gets justice. That is the status of women in Pakistan.
Nasser Ali Khan
Mar 08, 2011 08:28pm
Only 2 comments left, I am not surprised. For the media, it is a story to tell. To the vast majority of readers it is highly disturbing, especially as they feel powerless to do much about it. They just move on to some other sad story such as suicide acts of the day. Both comments are so apt. Readers always want to know the full story; they want to know whether the victim received any justice and how the criminals were punished, if at all. Also, our media makes a big deal about the "independence" of the judiciary from the government, big businesses, people with power, etc. All this is of no use to the public at large if the judiciary is itself corrupt to the core within, and at the end the victims receive no or little justice and criminals don't receive any or little punishments. This is turn encourages more victimisation in our great Islamic nation.
Mar 08, 2011 08:42pm
This is because Governments lack of attention from Education.
Mosin Karim
Mar 09, 2011 02:20am
Women are human like the men, there should be equal and fair justice for both. Men are NOT the chief as it was practice in the 18th Cenury.
Mar 09, 2011 03:18am
If the rule of law is not applicable to the top most governing officials, how can one hope that tribal "leaders" would actually be heedful of laws. or common sense at that.
Mar 09, 2011 04:37am
Root cause of most economical and social issues in Pakistan is the lack of law and its implementation. Lack of justice and lack of accountability is the primary cause of Pakistan's downfall and crisis, at this time (even more so then lack of education). May the men involved in these horrendous acts, and may the silent supporters burn in hell for eternity
Muhammad Umar
Mar 09, 2011 10:52am
Dawn and other newspapers should publish the names and locations of the influential persons involved. This is the only way to protect the Innocent women and expose the culprits - in this way people can come to know the real faces of politicians who are supporting these culprits.
Mar 11, 2011 05:48pm
This is all due to ignorance in our country and our government is doing nothing for this.
Mar 12, 2011 01:07pm
where these mullas are now who blame veena malik but not these men
Mar 13, 2011 11:50am
Media should play active role in pinpointing the chiefs of villages or cities who are cooperating with bad elements of society at large
Mar 13, 2011 09:42pm
rule of Law is not established if these bad guys aware they will be punished seriously they will think so mnay times, why mullas don't talk about thsese matters in Khutbas, and why these people think if it happen (Allah Na Kare) with theior own sisters or daughters.
Mar 16, 2011 07:32am
what are all the judges and justices doing to deliver justice to the people of Pakistan ? Nothing ofcouse except handing out injustice all in the service of the ruling elite with whom they are bedfellows. Not until there is revolution in Pakistan will things change. Not until you have leaders that arise from the honest working classes will things ever change for the better.Its impossible
raziya sultana
Mar 16, 2011 07:47am
Pakistani Men of every class and background have no sense of shame or fear of God for allowing the disgusting hudood ordinances to remain and crimes against women to go unchecked. What in God's name are they doing ? Do they think that God will overlook and pardon them for this unspeakable crime that persists on and on? All they have to do is utter a few maafis every now and then and make a couple of umraah and haj's .Never. Forget it. Allah Almighty's promise of retribution is the only thing that women can take solace in. Wake up and accept responsibility it will be too late. They will have gone far beyond the point of no return.