LAHORE: Civil society and human rights activists have condemned statement of Lahore Capital City Police Officer Umar Sheikh about the motorway incident, implying that the victim shared responsibility for her rape.

Speaking to Dawn, Asma Jahangir (AGHS) Legal Aid Cell director Nida Aly says the failure of the state can be easily seen after the motorway incident, which has shattered the façade it is trying to create.

“Women are already subjected to extraordinary pressures, intense security considerations to exert their constitutionally protected right to freedom of movement,” says Ms Aly.

“On the other hand, the law enforcement agencies, supposed to protect citizens, are led by the people like CCPO Umar Sheikh who chose to do victim blaming to change the narrative just to hide their own incompetence. In reality, they end up unveiling their deep-rooted misogynistic nature and lack of gender sensitisation,” Ms Aly says.

She says the CCPO’s statement meant he was misfit for the post and that he should be immediately discharged of it.

Aurat March Lahore’s organiser Hiba Akbar says women in Pakistan need fundamental and structural changes at all levels of society alongside solid preventative policies to stop sexual assault.

“This requires going beyond the discourse of increasing punishment for rape, capital punishment and public hangings. These are not a deterrent against rape. When we march for bodily autonomy, we are opposed from all sides but violence against women is fundamentally linked to control over our own bodies. We want police, judiciary and the government to make policies that don’t question women about their whereabouts, travel or clothes. They should rather invest their efforts in preventative measures for an end to this violence,” she suggests.

Soon after the comment was made on a TV channel, Twitter burst with thousands of users demanding removal of the CCPO with trending hashtags such as #RemoveCCPOLahore and #DismissCCPOLahore.

Lawyer and the nephew of Prime Minister Imran Khan Hassaan Niazi also commented saying, “Time for some serious action. Time to make example of incompetent officers. @CcpoLahore you MUST apologise for your words of blaming the victim lady or @UsmanAKBuzdaryou must #RemoveCCPOLahore.”

PPP leader Sharmila Faruqi tweeted, “A classic example of the shameful victim blaming in our society by none other than the CCPO Lahore. If anyone who needs to be sacked it’s him. Blame the woman and be the man. Pathetic!”

Even Federal Minister of Human Rights Shireen Mazari has condemned the statement, saying, “For an officer to effectively blame a woman for being gang-raped by saying she should have taken the GT Road or question as to why she went out in the night with her children is unacceptable & have taken up this issue. Nothing can ever rationalise the crime of rape. That’s it.”

“Dear Pakistanis please listen to what he is saying,” wrote journalist Nasim Zehra. “This is unacceptable — he must apologize and be sent home.”

Meanwhile, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also released a statement on Twitter, saying that the “horrifying gang rape of a woman in the motorway incident was a grim reminder that Pakistan has become an increasingly dangerous place for women. Not only must the perpetrators be brought to justice, the Motorway police must also be taken to task for failing to respond.

We also condemn the galling remarks of the Lahore CCPO, whose first reaction was to ask why the rape survivor had chosen to drive on her own at night.”

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2020