Child raped by 65-year-old man in Akora Khattak

Updated February 27, 2015


— AFP/File
— AFP/File

PESHAWAR: A seven-year-old girl from Nowshera District's Akora Khattak tehsil was allegedly raped by a 65-year-old man, it emerged on Friday.

According to the child's father, the incident occurred a few days ago when the victim was playing outside her house one evening.

She was kidnapped and allegedly raped before being set free by one Shah Nawabzada, a 65-year-old resident of Akora Khatak,

The victim's father also said that the police have arrested the main accused but a trial is yet to begin.

He added that because the alleged perpetrator wields influence, the police is being forced to reach a 'compromise' or outside court settlement through back-channel negotiations.

This incident comes a day after BBC reported the horrifying story of a gang-rape victim who was filmed during the crime. The film was later distributed widely on social media sites, with little to no repercussions for the alleged perpetrators.

Look at: Gang-rape victim lives life of isolation after viral video

This case adds to the plethora of paedophilia cases reported across Pakistan each year, with the state machinery proving incapable of curbing this in the near future. A similar story was released in a documentary titled 'Pakistan's Hidden Shame' that premiered in Britain's Channel 4 last September.

The documentary alleges that 9 out of 10 children in Peshawar have been victims of pedophilia. It also contains interviews with truck drivers who have committed such crimes.

To find out more: Pakistan’s Hidden Shame: Documentary reveals horrors of pedophilia in K-P

According to recent figures released by Punjab Police, about 1, 651 rape cases were registered in Punjab alone in the first half of 2014, with challans issued for 990 of these which led to zero convictions.

For more: State of neglect

Editorial — Anti-rape bill

FEW would argue that Pakistan’s societal realities are such that render it a deeply hostile place for women and children in particular.

Nevertheless, slow though it may be, in terms of legislation some progress is being made to address this concern. Forward-looking legislation is, in fact, a first step towards changing norms and reducing rights violations.

In recent years, several laws have been passed and procedures laid down that offer extra and targeted protections, such as those against honour killings and underage marriage.

Know more: Gang-rape victim lives life of isolation after viral video

Others bring into the ambit of the law those transgressions that otherwise tend to remain in the shadows, such as sexual harassment at the workplace. And last week, the Senate’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice approved the Anti-Rape Laws (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill of 2014.

This is meant to amend sections of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedures, 1898, and the Qanoon-i-Shahadat Order, 1984 in order to improve the chances of rape victims getting justice.

The bill may be a slim document, but the changes it envisages are significant. A clause is inserted, for example, in Section 218 of the PPC making defective investigations worthy of punishment, and in Section 344 of the CrPc requiring that once a rape case has been taken cognisance of by a court, it shall be decided upon within six months.

The new bill gives added protections to victims. For instance, disclosing through the media or via some other route the identity of a victim without the latter’s consent would be deemed an offence. It also provides for in-camera trials.

An insertion in the Qanoon-i-Shahadat law says that if the question of consent comes up and the victim claims that she did not, “the court shall presume that she did not consent”.

Article 151, clause 4 of the same legislation currently reads: “When a man is prosecuted for rape or an attempt to ravish, it may be shown that the prosecutrix was of generally immoral character.” The new bill requires that this clause be omitted.

These are all welcome changes, and the bill deserves smooth passage through the Senate and the National Assembly.

Past this will come the real challenge: that of ensuring implementation. Too often, notwithstanding the laws on the books, victims of various crimes, and in particular of rape, find the path to justice impeded by entrenched prejudice and a lack of sympathy at even the level of the police station.

In addition to the laws, the whole culture surrounding rape needs to change.