Prayer leader tries to rape 3-year-old: Just another day in Pakistan

Published: October 2, 2013

Unless our government reviews its archaic laws and the influential organisations of our society change their rigid stance towards rape, the women and children of our country will continue to suffer. PHOTO: FILE

We have all read the headlines:  a neighbour held for child rape in Faisalabad, two teenage girls raped and shot dead in Gujranwala and the latest in the never-ending list of gruesome crimes – the horrific attempt of a prayer leader to rape and kill a three-year-old child while she was at a seminary to study.

Such revolting treatment of children in our homeland certainly makes everyone feel sick to their stomachs but one wonders what allowed such a shameful rape culture to prevail?

There have been 2,713 rape cases registered since January 2012 according to research by the Awaz Foundation Centre for Development, and these are merely the reported ones. That’s almost eight women left defenceless, battered and traumatised for life every single day in just one year. Perhaps, the gross enormity of this problem has yet to strike our government which is lagging behind in protecting the rights and bodies of more than 50% of its population.

Rape is an international issue. Mostly women and children suffer through this traumatic and life-changing experience all around the world, and governments are expected to form legislation that condemns and reduces this disgusting crime. At least, governments other than the Government of Pakistan. We are living in the year 2013 where women are supposedly doing a lot better than their counterpart’s centuries before and yet, it seems that Pakistani women haven’t really moved forward when it comes to the basic right of security from assault.

To make matters worse, the misguided culture of ‘no witness, no rape’ promoted in the past under the Hudood Ordinance still prevails in the society, making it easy for these heinous acts to be carried out without fear of condemnation. Furthermore, the penchant use of bribery, coercion and power by rapists to avoid being charged, along with the immense social stigma faced by victims, contributes to a rise not only in the crime, but also in the concealment of it.

It is high time that our government takes notice of the fact that it is simply not doing enough to change the laws and mindsets that make it easy for these violations to occur. Does it not perturb them that they have cultured a mindset that allows dirty people to get away with their filthy acts without being held accountable? Is it not their duty to make our society safer and more mobile for women by providing harsher punishments for rapists instead of having laws that hinder the victims?

Instead, influential bodies such as our much loved Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) debate over dismissing the Women’s Protection Act – 2006 due to its misalignment with Islamic belief,  as a matter of greater priority than advising the government on taking harsh action against a crime that our religion so vehemently condemns.

However, in a country where Islam has been increasingly misrepresented, it is not surprising that women are denied their rights to justice and equality – rights that Islam itself gives them. This misrepresentation engenders a dangerous rape culture, putting our rape statistics on an upward spiral.

Human rights organisations and feminist activists caused quite an uproar in the USA recently over the popularity of Robin Thicke’s song Blurred Lines, since its lyrics condoned rape culture. The lyrics include the words “I know you want it” – a phrase that many sexual assault survivors report their rapists say to justify their actions.

PHOTO: Project Unbreakable

Thicke was bombarded by harsh criticism and intense lawsuits which in turn educated the public mindset that rape is not acceptable and made him quite an unpopular figure in many parts of liberal America.

All this over a song and the Pakistani government and religious organisations are still debating whether DNA should be considered primary evidence in rape cases or not. Even India, which has had a despicable women’s rights record, has been spurred into action by the recent protests and demands made by civilians against the recent bout of rape cases.  The Indian government has changed laws, security systems and education tactics to protect its female population and create a more harmonious society.

Indian girl protesting against rape. PHOTO: Reuters

If our government does not review its archaic laws and the influential organisations of our society continue to hold their rigid stance towards rape, the women and children of our country will continue to suffer. The only way to deter such heinous crimes is by creating a society which has absolutely no tolerance for these criminals or rape apologists. Our rape culture needs to end now.

CII’s observations on admissibility of DNA evidence shows that its members are either keen to protect rapists or are anti-women, says Asma Jahangir. PHOTO: File

Perhaps it’s time for another Women’s Protection Bill – this time with a good dose of sanity, equality and humanity.

Ayesha Sadaf Khan

Ayesha Sadaf Khan

Born and raised in Karachi, Ayesha is a sophomore at Smith College, USA. She tweets @ayeshasadafkha1

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

  • Humza

    Do you really think this only goes on in Pakistan. Just take a look at any major North American newspaper – not a week goes by that some priest isn’t charged with the sexual abuse of a child. The issue of sexual predators targeting children is a global scourge that must be eradicated.Recommend

  • Usman

    Well written, thank you for articulating the argument for better laws so well.Recommend

  • Jaswinder Singh Chaggar

    A Crying shame. Especially more so when the victim is so Young and the Rapist is a Preacher ! Minimum a Ten year Jail Term, Having to wear a Placard Stating what he Did, All The Time !Recommend

  • Khan

    THAT sick person shouldnt be called a prayer leader…a moron sick person…
    as for as DNA evidence is concerned, we should not jump to the conclusion that it proves doesnt prove rape it proves adultery…so DNA evidence must be used but it must be combined with other evidences…
    another misperception is that islam requires four witnesses in such cases…well islam doesnt..the four witnesses are required when on accuse a person of adultery…rape and adultery are poles apart…
    and further capital punishment to rapist might discourage others…Recommend

  • Sarah B. Haider

    That is what happens when people blindly follow a
    political frenzy paying no heed to the fact that their beloved leader voted
    against a women rights bill. We can’t outrightly blame the government because
    it’s the masses who choose such incompetent leaders and then expect “change” to
    occur overnight.Recommend

  • dexter

    That is NOT true. Those cases are very rare here in the US. “Religious” men molesting children is far more common in PakistanRecommend

  • Syed Rizvi

    Its common in the western world. There are websites against this. this news is not even a week old. I live in Houston, TX.

    The highest number of crimes happen in USA. The highest number of rapes happen in USA. Just google.

    What do you expect when 24/7 men & women are bombarded with nudity/vulgarity form the media.Recommend

  • Pappu

    Why are you blaming humans for “no witness no rape”. This is in your scriptures.Recommend

  • Parvez

    In an environment where the perception that if you are powerful and rich you can get away with murder……….it would be an uphill battle to change the mindset in rape cases where the victim is quickly labelled as guilty.
    The government must take steps to stop the misuse of religion towards destroying the fabric of society…………but then we must first have a government true to the people.Recommend

  • SM

    Really? I live here in the US and see that regularly.Recommend

  • Maria

    I don’t know where you live in the US but where I live in Boston the Catholic Diocese has publicly acknowledged that it has a systemic problem with the abuse of young boys; Why do you think millions of dollars in settlement money has been paid out over the last few decades in America?Recommend

  • MA

    His picture should be published all over the front pages of all newspapers and he castrated. That punishment will deter future doersRecommend

  • Pappu

    For “No witness no rape” how can you blame humans. This is prescribed in divine scriptures to provide 4 reliable witnesses for rape.Recommend

  • Kiwi

    The highest number of rapes happen in the USA. Of course they do because it is illegal and the victims report it. It is not as if you are honour killed in the States because you have shamed your family!
    What woman living in a muslim country would dare report a rape?
    Rape is probably not even included in the crime stats. in Pakistan.Recommend

  • gp65

    It goes on everywhere in the world. So? Shouldn’t you care about what. Is happening to women in your country?i don’t understand this notion that I f someone else also has a problem, I need not do anything about my problem.Recommend

  • gp65

    In a well written oped overall which made some very legitimate points, the author could not resist taking a swipe at India.Recommend

  • sana

    oh really? thanks for enlightening me cuz i thought my holy scripture mentions 4 witnesses only when a woman is accused of adultery ..i salute you and your brilliant accusation :)Recommend

  • bondamar

    Highest reportted, saudi arabi has almost no rapes, yet, it has the highest no of women raped, checked wiki islam. Cause the law is different. In the u.s the victims are protected. In pakistan the victims are punished, jus like in saudi arabia.Recommend

  • Major denial

    Check out the number of defiant,stiff-necked patriots below who are whitewashing the moulavi’s & imam’s sexual habits, by bashing American paedophiles.
    Way to defend holy pakistan..Maria,Humza ..way to go !
    Devils advocates.Recommend

  • Hmm….

    Would like to see all the Mosques here,publicly acknowledge their Moulvi’s rapes & the millions of pakistani rupees of settlement to the victims families for the next few decades.Recommend

  • Irony

    You’re right Sana..4 witnesses for adultery which is an act of consent involving adults.
    But paedophilia- neither adults,nor consent…isn’t it sad ?Recommend

  • Pappu

    Adultery is “sex by consent between man and woman both”. How a woman can only be accused and how is it possible that sex by consent would be witnessed by 4 people?Recommend

  • Noor

    How true …so insecure :)Recommend

  • Indian

    10 is too less…paedophiles should be awarded a life term,minimum.
    The author says that DNA is not considered primary evidence in Pakistan :o
    Surely this is a printing mistake or the author is misinformed ?!!!!

  • JayMankind

    Fact of the matter is not all that is written in the scriptures is acceptable or relevant to modern living. It was written for a time that was far different from the present. That’s one of the reasons for the conflict in Egypt.Recommend

  • Oh Maria

    Moulvis are allowed to marry.
    But western priests are supposed to be celibate & can’t marry. So between a sexually frustrated priest who has sex with 12 yr old altar boys & a married moulvi who wants to rape a 3 year old girl & bury her afterwards (with the foresight to dig a grave beforehand),I think the moulvi wins the pervert race.
    What kind of compensation should be offered for that ? Billions ?Recommend

  • Syed Rizvi

    For God’s sake you guys stop commenting about countries you don’t live in. Inferiority complex has ruined us. Just read the following article & then reply me.

    “The following are 21 signs that U.S. public schools have become training centers for sexual deviancy” So is our schools.

  • Infidel Brotherhood(Australia)

    misperception is that islam requires four witnesses in such cases…well islam doesnt..the four witnesses are required when on accuse a person of adultery.

    Crap! there have been many cases of a woman going to the police to report being raped and being jailed for 18 or so months.

    Search “Australian raped in dubai” and choose from 611,000 and see how many have been jailed under sharia law, a law that is outdated and barbaric!!!Recommend

  • AZ

    Adultery is sex by consent OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE. If a woman is accused of being an adulteress, 4 honest witnesses are needed to confirm if the accusation as true or false. This is done to protect pious women from being slandered publicly without proof because for women even an accusation is enough to get them a social exile. The punishment for adultery goes to BOTH parties since they were both engaged in sin.
    In rape there is sex WITHOUT CONSENT and in that case you don’t need witnesses (which righteous person would witness such a thing and not act to defend the victim) and the punishment is only for the attacker.
    Also as time progresses we have improved our methods of getting evidence. Medical evidence must be accepted, even a witness who is a truthful person could be threatened to lie, that’s why many countries have witness protection programs. As such medical evidence can provide hard evidence that no one can deny.Recommend

  • sana

    sorry for not being clear but ofcourse in case of adultery both man and woman are the “accused”,see Islam is not as ‘barbaric’ as you think it is, if there are no 4 witnesses (publicly doing it makes it a social issue, privately it will be between the sinners and God). then they dont get punished, simple! you need to do some proper research, its pathetic how people like you with little or no knowledge come up with such absurd claims … read a bit more and you will know how adultery and rape was handled 1400 years ago …Recommend

  • gp65

    I do not know Islam but the interpretation of Council of Islamic Ideology, Pakistan is exactly what @Pappu indicated I.e. DNA cannot be considered a primary evidence in a rape case. Primary evidence has to be the 4good male Muslim witnesses. Thus your sarcasm was misplaced.Recommend

  • ptr

    Not for rape pappu’ it is for adultery.Recommend

  • Pappu

    Also if you believe that 4 witnesses is required only in case of “sex by consent” than please enlighten how a woman would possibly prove her innocence in case of RAPE?? ( keep in mind that DNA testing is a recent invention).Recommend

  • Hypocrisy

    Dear AZ & Sana
    If a woman who is a rape victim,cannot prove it ( when DNA isn’t accepted as proof )
    Most likely,she finds herself punished for adultery instead,in the middle east.
    Moral of the story- if you’re raped in a Islamic majority country-you’re better off,keeping quiet.Recommend

  • Karma

    After reading a few articles and blogs on this site…I am quite sad to read some of the heavily religiously based opinions. Although the country is heavily rooted in Islam and the strict/heavily enforced ideals, I truly felt like more would express their human emotions and their connection to the planet and humanity as a whole, rather than the religion they were born into and most likely forced to practice.

    It is truly sad to see how many are blinded into believing fairy tale stories used to control and monitor the masses. Many people worship the same mullah’s and religious leaders that commit the worst sins. At the same time, many citizens who claim to be very religious and do prayers everyday, love some “evil” things such as alcohol, sex before marriage and watching/listening to Western music/movies.

    I could make thousands of points to tell you my opinion and they would be fact, but most people’s ego and “faith” will not let me see the light.

    Personally, I do good deeds and try to help out my brothers/sisters in humanity without the benefit of knowing I will go to heaven or I will be rewarded blah blah blah. I do it purely because I want to help them and my soul says it is the right thing to do, I do not want or need reward in this life or the next. We truly do not know where anyone goes in the next life, I will not let outdated books tell me my fate. To say any religion is wrong is a complete waste of time, they were all made then ADJUSTED (by means of translation or complete change) by people, whether you accept it or not, the merit is nearly zero.

    Live this life to the fullest and enjoy what you have as much as you can, live with strong morals and do not hate differences in any way. I just hope religion stops being a determining factor in determining people’s character.

    The people on the side of the street were born into suffering and sadness, yet we choose to believe if they are “good muslims” they will get to heaven? Come on….

    We are lucky to be given wealth and opportunity, god didn’t select our position in life. Look into the sky and tell me how unimportant and small Earth is. It may stand out in the fact that it has water and life, but we know little to nothing about the extent of the universe.

    Rape is wrong, anywhere, by anyone. Religion should have nothing to do with it. Getting into debates that “Oh, but, but, Church leaders do it more often!!!”….
    That is pityful and retarded.

    I was forced to hate gay people by my religion in both Arabic school and my family ideals > and yes I was told several times to HATE. After living with a gay male in residence at university, he was the one who introduced and helped me find the girl of my dreams and was also there for emotional support any time I needed it. If I had believed in this foolish belief along with many others, I would have lost out on meeting a great friend. I don’t believe in same-sex relationships, but it his life, and he never forced his ideals on me, he lived his life quietly in his own way. He helped me improve mine. Should I hate him? What does your heart tell you…not a book. Hmm, the answer is different isn’t it?

    Let your religion be your faith in your own life if you choose to practice, don’t go around trying to force it upon everyone. It is beyond annoying. You might actually enjoy life this way.

    I would definitely be put in jail if I said more than two words if I came back to Karachi for good. I am uncomfortable living abroad and miss home constantly, but I definitely do not miss this non sense of strange and pathetic views on so many topics.

    HATE AWAY! Hopefully a couple people agree with me though.Recommend

  • Peter Pan

    He should be castrated publicly.Recommend

  • umer

    if some one is interested to know the reason and history behind requirement of four witnesses in islam , i will be delighted to explain.Recommend

  • Gingo

    Not just middle east, it happens in in Pakistan too.
    In Zia Ul Haqs time a blind 13 year old girl was raped. Since she was blind and couldn’t identify her attackers yet had admitted to be raped, she was accused of adulteryRecommend

  • Buddhi Humari

    Why is the Council of Islamic Ideology against DNA testing? The Shariah requires four witnesses only if you want to prove a woman has committed adultery… the Quran commands that you may not malign a woman without having four witnesses from amongst yourselves. This protects women from unfair accusations, and our Islamic Council would do well to apply this more often in the ridiculous Zinna cases that seem pervade our society. It certainly does not apply in rape cases and anyone who claims it does must be suspected of having vested interests in the matter. If the Quran states that you may not inherit women against their will; that you must at all times guard yourselves against evil; that it would be better if you restrained yourself; that you must never harm anyone… I think that covers rape quite thoroughly. If DNA is the most effective evidence in such cases, I would really question why the Council of Islamic Ideology is against it. Or do they not want the rapists to be caught?!! Why?!!! Perhaps because of stories like this one.
    It is about time the CII began behaving in a more moral and responsible fashion or perhaps they should relinquish their claim to having moral authority over others and stop being hurdles on the road to justice.Recommend

  • safiyeh cheval

    The law must always protect all citizens regardless of a leader’s leanings. Women’s rights must be part of the constitution and not a bill, awaiting the whims and fancies of individuals.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Rape? What rape? There are no rapes in Pakistan! DNA is a western conspiracy!Recommend

  • jenny

    God, why do you allowed these rapes to happen?Recommend

  • francois

    Did you even read this article? She in no way is “taking a swipe” at India, she simply references that at least the Indian govt. has addressed this issue in their country and is doing something about it. Whereas nothing seems to be done in Pakistan. Please don’t make unnecessary presumptions.Recommend

  • jenny

    yes, please….Recommend

  • khan

    there is a difference between what is practiced in dubai and what is in the written scripture..and religious texts says as i mentioned in earlier post…there is no sharia in dubai…..One don’t blame knife for a murder…so stop bashing sharia when you don’t know ABC of it….Recommend

  • Sarah B. Haider

    You live in a highly patriarchal society with a political system that is a mockery of democracy, and a country where politics are religicised and religion is highly politicised. In such a scenario, it’s rather absurd to blindly follow a political leader expecting them to be Martin Luther King or Che Guevara for that matter.Recommend

  • Infidel Brotherhood(Australia)

    I know the sharia better you think I do! As for no sharia in the uae, that is crap and is run by sharia, go practice your taqqiya elsewhere. Recommend