A 5-year-old girl: The perfect victim for a vile act like rape

Published: September 14, 2013

When a child is raped, societal outrage is far greater than when an adult is raped.

Recently, a five-year-old girl was discovered outside Ganga Ram hospital in Lahore. She had been raped and dumped on the street, a victim of a callous man who probably felt he could get away with what he did.

And sadly, he is right. Most men who rape or commit sexualised violence in Pakistan do so with complete impunity. The only difference here is that this little girl is the perfect victim worthy of our pity.

When a child is raped, societal outrage is far greater than when an adult is raped. Children are innocent and we, as adults, realise we have a responsibility to our children collectively. We realise they are worthy of pity if wrong and we acknowledge that sexual crimes against children are criminal. As I write this, the police are actively looking for this rapist, who, if caught, will certainly face the collective wrath of society as he rightfully should. The chances of him being declared guilty are high, certainly much higher than when an adult woman is raped.

There are many reasons why he’ll be seen as guilty by most and many are reductive without a proper understanding why rape occurs. We, as a society, believe rape is about sex and not power despite evidence to the contrary daily. Rape in our culture is largely about honour. Mukhtaran Mai, who despite her brave fight, was the victim of a sexualised honour crime which had nothing to do with sexual lust. Mai’s victims were let off despite the collective outrage, despite the evidence and despite the fact that she had excellent legal counsel.

When a female child, whose body hasn’t experienced any pubertal changes, is raped, we instantly see the victim differently and automatically say she’s innocent. But that’s not the case with females whose bodies have matured. Once a female looks womanly enough to seduce, we blame the victim. Was she really innocent? What was she wearing? Did she have makeup on? If so, didn’t she realise she was tempting men? Why was she out alone? Why wasn’t she with her father, brother or husband? Did she not know that she was asking for it by daring to enter male territory alone?

So while child rapists and paedophiles are seen as evil and vile, rapists of adult women are often seen as the innocent victims of women’s feminine wiles. They are seen as men who were left with no option but to ravage a woman and she is the one who is held responsible for it. This then translates into the victim not being believed by the police who hesitate to register FIRs and then by the courts.

In a patriarchal country, the existence of patriarchal attitudes in court is no surprise. Judges, too blame the victims. Judgements include speculations asking why the victim didn’t scream, completely neglecting the fact that many freeze when they are in danger. Judgements also state that there wasn’t enough physical injury so if a woman is raped, but not left beaten, she is often accused of framing a man for rape.

We also assign degrees of blame on victims not just based on their age, but based on sexual experience. A non virgin who has been raped is often called a “woman of easy virtue” and her rapist is seen as the victim of a seductress.

While I sincerely hope this case opens the floodgates of outrage and leads to a demand that we need to reform our rape laws, we must not leave out the many victims other than female children. This includes boys, transgendered individuals, men, sex workers, and all women, including wives. We don’t recognise marital rape. Wives are property of their husbands who need to submit to them sexually and if they don’t, we feel no pity if force is applied. Our conversation has hopefully begun and this time, we must make it more inclusive than it has been in the past.

Nabiha Meher

Nabiha Meher

A teacher at Aitchison, LGS, NCA and LUMS.A graduate from the United World College of the Atlantic,with an undergraduate degree in women's studies from York University and a masters degree in creative and critical writing from University of Sussex.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • aqib

    We are returning to the times of Jahilliyah..Recommend

  • http://nil Abdulsultan

    The proccess of crime comtrrol, ivestigation, judicial system, judgement and punishment are to be blamed. These takes inordinate delay. Criminals are confedant and believe that they will not be caught. There has to be detterant. Law makers will not change laws bacause present laws can benefit them some times.Recommend

  • Nadir

    Now we just have to wait for someone to say that the “5 year old probably enticed the men to rape her”, because “men are unable to control their sexual desires and therefore CHILDREN must cover up”.Recommend

  • Hera Iftikhar

    Thankyou so much for writing this article. Times like this make me hate Pakistan in general. Im a Pakistani but not a proud one and anyone who has an issue with that should give me a solid reason for why a woman should be proud of belonging to a country where she is not respected. Men in our country have zero shame. Note,I dont mean ALL men,Pakistan has some pretty decent ones. But MOST men under the guise of religion or other such aspects tend to have no respect for women who are considered inferiors rather than equals. Its sickening.
    And its sadder that we only consider rape a crime when a child is involved and it makes me sick when filth like this gets away with it because mulla’s and our society in general seems to CONDONE rape when it comes to a developed female because obviously the man couldnt control himself because Islam DOESNT teach us self-control.
    I hope this animal is caught and sentenced to death and the sentence is actually carried out. Pakistan has a way when it comes to delayed or no justice.Recommend

  • Kashif Farooqi

    I completely agree with the writer and her analysis. Being a GBV Counselor, I come across many cases in month who blame themselves for what happened to them. And at times it becomes very difficult to make them understand that it wasn’t their fault. I believe that as a society we have internalized and accepted violence. Moreover false religious interpretations have also augmented violence against women and same happened with our rape laws. I strongly believe that we have to benefit from the progress that medical science has made so far and DNA tests are enough to furnish the proof of rape. Recommend

  • Muhammed Usama Aziz

    Only solution is to punish these beasts with capital punishment. Only then, this epidemic can be controlled!!!Recommend

  • Komal

    Great article! Thanks so much for writing it. I especially loved this: “… we must not leave out the many victims other than female children. This includes boys, transgendered individuals, men, sex workers, and all women, including wives.”Recommend

  • Thetruth

    Public Capital punishment. Televised.Recommend

  • csmann

    The Big question is if the silent and meek majority will ever raise its voice against this outrage,and force the Government to pass protective laws(as happened and is happening in India). Off course,it is too much to ask some people to come out against it.They are experts only on passing fatwas against women.Recommend

  • jin

    Indian propaganda. We Pakistanis are peaceful nation who never commit such horrendous crimes.

    India sents its agents to do this crime because they want to shift the current focus and spotlight from their own rape culture and shift it on Pakistan.

    Unfortunately and usual, paki liberals, with their oh so fake perceptions, are gonna bash Pakistan and blame Pakistanis, of course because they believe in propagandas but quickly denounce the right efforts or steps taken by Pakistanis. #SHAME!Recommend

  • kanwal

    This is awful. Only psychos can do it and thy must be given capital punishment. No way around it. It reminds me of the movie, A Time to Kill.Recommend

  • AA

    Thank you Nabiha. I really appreciate your work and the work others like you. Thanks for giving me some hope about the future of women in Pakistan. Recommend

  • ptr

    @aqib:
    Not returning, we are living in that time….Recommend

  • http://www.smart-bets.blogspot.com/ Jawed Saleem

    DID HE RAPE PAKISTAN TOO ? Certainly HE DID !
    Now, Pakistani society just need to sleep !
    A coma would be nice. Or amnesia !
    * Documented stats. for Punjab w.r.t. rape/sexual assaults over last 5 years exceeds 5000 – out which just over 100 convicted while more than 4500 cases still under scrutiny.
    *
    Most of accused get away due “lack of intensity” in prosecution from police.
    Pakistan judiciary HURTS ! Recommend

  • Z

    Thank for writing this Nabiha – especially for articulating why collective outrage is nowhere to be found when the victim of sexual assault is an adult woman.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nicely articulated.
    When the State is seen as weak, in that it is incapable of providing security or justice as required by any decent society …………. crime and especially heinous crimes will be committed with impunity.
    Blaming the punitive side for these crimes is only half the story because moral values, the ability to discern between right and wrong is the function of society as a whole and unless those leaders who matter do not lead by example and good intent, nothing will change.Recommend

  • Imtiaz

    @Hera Iftikhar
    It hard to talk to a foreigner and look him in the eyes. There is so much to be embarrassed and ashamed of in Pakistan. Our country needs to be changed from the ground up. Our country needs a great leader who can change our morality, philosophy and economy.Recommend

  • Fed-up!

    @Muhammed Usama Aziz: Yes capital punishment all the way but we know how things work in our country… law and police can be bought for a bunch of rupees for any crime! Haven’t we learnt from so many crimes in the past where criminals were allowed to get away with it citing BS reasons… People do not believe in the system anymore! I say its time people get up and start taking things into their own hands to show our corrupt law and order implementing bodies how to punish these guys… I say anyone who rapes, esp rapes a child, should be castrated!!… In addition, their families should be named and shamed everywhere! That’s the only way some discipline may be achieved in the chaotic society!Recommend

  • Fed-up!

    @jin: You are an idiot!!!! Recommend

  • Fed-up!

    I say castrate anyone who is proven for raping, esp raping a child!!!! Recommend

  • Sonia

    While I agree with everything you have said separately, I cannot bring myself to understand your collective argument. It is a sad fact that our society is painfully judgmental, people generally blame the women and consider the victims provocative sirens. But then again, this thinking does not exist in the entirety of our nation and somehow your view on this issue puts a shadow over the tragedy that took place with this child. This case just got lucky by coming into the notice of our media which is why everyone is protesting for justice. Another 12 year old girl was gang raped yesterday in Pakistan, somewhere in punjab only, there isn’t much hype about it. I agree with you that its the idea of rape and sexual abuse that is repulsive regardless of the status, gender or age of the victim but media plays an important role in the importance a particular case gets.
    Sexual abuse is a very critical issue and no matter who the victim, the action of the worst kind shall always ONLY be taken against the culprits.
    All in all its a very well written article and i hope it at least triggers the change in our mindsets.Recommend

  • TTV

    @jin:
    India sents its agents to do this crime

    You can’t be serious. The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one.Recommend

  • @ jin

    you gotta be kidding me?Recommend

  • Syeda Kazmi

    @Hera Iftikhar: Do you know the ratio of such rape cases in west? Dont go too far, just see therape cases ratio in india… Search thoroughly before labelling Paki men only….Recommend

  • Syeda Kazmi

    @Imtiaz:
    No dude your mindset needs to be changed.. there is enough things in Pak to be proud of..
    Y never a foreigner feels guilty and cudnt look in ur eyes for being ashamed of the cruelty in their country?

    Try to understand that these things are not based on nationalities, they are due to the lack of humanity.Recommend

  • CAGED

    I second Fed up’s thoughts…. Don’t drag Indo Pak and Masla-e-Kashmir into this, JINN. I suppose castration is the best punishment for rape. Even better than capital punishment. Get done with the body part that is ruling the psyche of man and making him act like a dogRecommend

  • Sane

    Please do not wipe off my response to the comments of Hera Iftikhar.Recommend

  • Sarooj Noo

    @Nabiha Meher: Dude you’ve nicely & symbolically narrated the story. Its a brutal as well as a despise fact of out Pakistani Society. If we support and encourage self-defense in our country (@ every nook & corner), we may hopefully sustain a safe environment, especially for girls!

    Frustration is one main point that encourages “The Men Community” to play with any one….. anyone at all! For them age is nothing, only “SHE” is!

    So, I strongly favour Self Defense especially for young girls. I have also covered few real stories in my blog, contributing to the importance of Self-defense for every young girl!

    Please Click & read:

    http://saroojonblogger.blogspot.com/2013/07/self-defense-not-only-for-learning-but.htmlRecommend

  • Sane

    @Moderator

    @Sane:
    *
    Please do not wipe off my response to the comments of Hera Iftikhar.*

    So you did. You let publish irrational and derogatory remarks about Pakistanis, Pakistan, Muslims and Islam. But if such comments are responded it does not suit your moderation policy. Biased standards.Recommend

  • Hassan Rizvi

    Rather than writing this blog, you should be involved in a campaign to find the criminal. Or once he is found, you should be in the courts where he is being tried.The girl and her family will only be supported through physical presence, not like this.Recommend

  • Parvez

    @Syeda Kazmi: Even ONE rape case in Pakistan ……….. is one too many.
    Although you have made a valid point, I feel that hiding our faults by pointing out others is certainly not the way forward.
    Recommend

  • Nahida Ahmed

    The men involved in this crime need to be hanged in public i feel they shud shud be stoned n their faces be shown to all. Their punishment shud be a lesson for all paedos. The police need to find them asap. Recommend

  • sana

    @Hasan Rizwi
    Atleast she did something good about writing a blog about that heinous crime, give her credit for that atleast, jeeeez some people are unbelievable Recommend

  • Pathan

    @jin:
    new version of Zaid Hamid. Get out of here please.Recommend

  • ZElahi

    While this a very thought provoking article, I sincerely hope that there will be more articles that also follow up on the case of the 5 year old girl. I completely agree with your statement:

    “I sincerely hope this case opens the floodgates of outrage and leads to a
    demand that we need to reform our rape laws, we must not leave out the
    many victims other than female children.”

    We need to raise our voices against such crimes so that the perpetrators get the punishment they deserve.Recommend