Plague of rape

Published May 15, 2024

FLAWED narratives about women — from being weak and vulnerable to provocative and culpable — have led to escalating sexual violence against them. Two disturbing cases were reported recently: a woman committed suicide five days after she was gang raped in Sheikhupura, while five men brutalised a girl from Jhang in Lahore. The former was abducted from a Lahore hospital where she was visiting a relative and raped by three security guards; the latter was lured by a job offer, taken to Sattokatla and violated. A series of incidents highlight the need for concern and action: last month, two men were booked and one arrested for gang raping two girls trapped through online jobs. In 2023, Lahore logged some eight rape cases against suspects who ensnared victims with prospects of employment. Sadly, while no province is free of gender-based violence, the numbers cited for Punjab have been particularly distressing.

Despite legislation to thwart the scourge of rape, over 80pc of suspected sex offenders in the country are acquitted because of deficient investigation, weak prosecution, out-of-court settlements and pending cases in the lower courts. Moreover, apathy and corruption in the police force creates repeat offenders. Often, members of law enforcement themselves indulge in victim blaming. It is no wonder then that in 2022, the gender equality index showed a ‘rape epidemic’ —– a rape every two minutes — owing to a pathetic 3pc conviction rate. The state must step forward to uphold the ideals of justice; it must censure misogynistic mindsets, support victims and enforce the law. Women have to be made aware of defensive measures, and advised on how to ensure personal safety. However, little will change for women in Pakistan unless legal and procedural anomalies and societal prejudices are addressed. Perverse proclivities drive rapists — criminals who commit an offence of dominance and vengeance. There should be no space for either out-of-court settlements, payments to poor victims and families, or victim blaming.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2024

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