Options for rape victims in Pakistan: Stay silent, get an abortion or set yourself on fire

Published: March 17, 2014
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If a rape victim gets pregnant, she can either get an abortion or set herself on fire, like the girl in Muzaffargarh. PHOTO: REUTERS

I feel sorry for Pakistani rape victims who can never get the justice they deserve. In the first instance, going by what Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Chief Syed Munawar Hassan said in an interview that a rape victim should stay silent and not report the incident to the police, or anyone else for that matter.

I asked another member of his party,

“What will she do if she gets pregnant?”

He replied,

“Impossible, a woman cannot get pregnant unless she’s willing”, quoting a US Republican Congressman who said the same thing.

So now we know why our illiterate people blame women for not conceiving; they actually believe that it’s in their wives’ power to become mothers. If this were true, a woman would only have to say ‘I don’t want to get pregnant’ and wouldn’t need birth control pills, and thus a lot of factories would have to shut down.

Hypothetically speaking, let’s suppose a rape victim decides to report the crime to the police officials. You can imagine the scene at the police station. It’ll be something like this:

Station House Officer (SHO): “So you say you’ve been raped? Do you have four male witnesses who saw this happening?”

Rape victim: “If there were four people there, they would either have prevented the rape or would have raped me themselves. Besides, even if I’d known I was going to be raped, I don’t have four ‘mehram’ male relatives whom I could’ve taken along to witness the incident.”

SHO: “I don’t care. Maulana Maududi has said you require four male witnesses, therefore we can’t file your complaint.”

Rape victim’s aged father: “But what if she gets pregnant?”

SHO: “We’ll charge her with adultery.”

Let’s assume that the rape victim’s relatives somehow manage to get a case registered against the accused and ask for DNA samples to be taken. And the head of the Council of Islamic Ideology says,

 “DNA can be used only as supporting evidence in a rape case. It is essential for the rape victim to produce four male witnesses first.”

Back to square one. Now the poor rape victim is in a quandary. If the matter ever gets to court, she will be asked why she didn’t take anyone else along with her, didn’t she know that it’s not safe for women to venture out alone?

What can she say?

“Judge sahib, I don’t have any brothers, my father was out in the fields and my mother is bed-ridden and can’t walk, etcetera.”

Poor kid, she has no choice but to remain silent and pray she doesn’t get pregnant. If she does, her options include going to one of those women who give abortion medication or she can set herself on fire, as a girl did a few days ago in Muzzaffargarh.

That, of course, would be the best choice for her, seeing that the whole society blames the rape victims and not the rapists.

Shakir Lakhani

Shakir Lakhani

Engineer, former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College, industrialist, associated with petroleum/chemical industries for many years. Loves writing, and (in the opinion of most of those who know him), mentally unbalanced. He tweets @shakirlakhani (twitter.com/shakirlakhani)

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

  • The One

    There is no way women can gain any form of justice within the current framework of laws. People are so trigger happy when proclaiming blasphemy this, blasphemy that but no one blinks an eye when such a mockery of Islam is in our law books.Recommend

  • Swat wala

    It goes to show how ignorant clerics are.
    They have absolutely no idea about the current present world. They are in a bizarre time warp. All of them madrassah trained with not even rudimentary knowledge of chemistry, physics, biology etc.
    By the the way that US Republican candidate did not win the election. He lost to a women candidate. And was a national joke for months. It goes to show even well educated demagogues will pander to religion blindly.Recommend

  • TSA

    Sir, you are very very balanced and rational individual…God bless youRecommend

  • someone

    so many protests for Kashmir and Rohingyas, and not a single protest by people of Pakistan in any city for this rape ??And then they think society will change.Hmm.Recommend

  • Feroz

    The matter is too serious to be made into humour and discussed in such a flippant manner. It needs a lot more sensitivity to write on this subject.Recommend

  • Mrs chishti

    According to the Hudood Ordiance law, the rapists do NOT get off scotch free if the rape cases are investigated properly AND Section 10 of Hudood Ordinance is IMPLEMENTED! The rapists get up to 25 years in prison & whipping, and when it is committed by two or more persons, they even face DEATH!

    So why not focus our efforts in trying to get this part of the law implemented rather than blatantly lying about the Hudood just to blame Islam or the IIC?

    But wait… Here is the twist… The specific above mentioned sections 6 and 10 of the Hudood Ordinance, were ALREADY REMOVED by the so called “Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006″, and yet the women still remain UNPROTECTED?!, and liberals still have the audacity to keep blaming a law that was already REMOVED for a supposed increase in the protection of women! The irony!Recommend

  • Talal

    Proving penetration w/o consent is sufficient to constitute rape. Four male witnesses are not needed.

    See below”

    Protection of Women Act (Amended) Act 2006
    “375. Rape:-
    A man is said to commit rape who has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the five following descriptions,
    (i) against her will.

    (ii) without her consent

    (iii) with her consent, when the consent has been obtained by putting her in fear of death or of hurt,

    (iv) with her consent, when the man knows that he is not married to her and that the consent is given because she believes that the man is another person to whom she is or believes herself to be married; or

    (v) With or without her consent when she is under sixteen years of age.

    Explanation: Penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse necessary to the offence of rape.

    376. Punishment for rape
    (1) Whoever commits rape shall be punished with death or imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than ten rears or more, than twenty-five years and shall also be liable to fine.

    (2) When rape is committed by two or more persons in furtherance of common intention of all, each of such persons shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life.”.Recommend

  • Sannan Buriro

    Protection of Women Act (Amended) Act 2006
    “375. Rape:-
    A man is said to commit rape who has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the five following descriptions,
    (i) against her will.

    (ii) without her consent

    (iii) with her consent, when the consent has been obtained by putting her in fear of death or of hurt,

    (iv) with her consent, when the man knows that he is not married to her and that the consent is given because she believes that the man is another person to whom she is or believes herself to be married; or

    (v) With or without her consent when she is under sixteen years of age.

    Explanation: Penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse necessary to the offence of rape.

    376. Punishment for rape
    (1) Whoever commits rape shall be punished with death or imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than ten rears or more, than twenty-five years and shall also be liable to fine.

    (2) When rape is committed by two or more persons in furtherance of common intention of all, each of such persons shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life.”.

    Proving penetration w/o consent is sufficient to constitute rape. Four male witnesses are not needed.Recommend

  • nishantsirohi123

    only poor people suffer with this, the rich elite and middle class is too busy preparing for VISA for CanadaRecommend

  • JuliannaSmith

    Women are reluctant to report rape in any society, and in traditional societies much more so. My friend told me to grab this smart phone service from safekidzone to protect my self anytime and anywhere. They can locate me quickly every time I’ll be placed in trouble. I could ask help quickly every time I need help from my family or 911. Here check this link http://safekidzone.com/?a_aid=52f12f7275422Recommend

  • gp65

    Well, the CII guidelines are fairly clear in this matter. Are you sure the SHO does not follow that? In any case why is it that the conviction rate is less than 1% of reported rapes and why are so few rapes actually reported?
    There is a degree of underreporting in India too due to the social stigma but we saw that after the outpouring of support from civil society in December 2012 for Nirbhaya, the reported rapes in Delhi doubled as women felt more confident of getting support rather than being blamed.
    In Pakistan too it is important for civil society to make itself heard andconfront those who would blame the victim, to empower women and embolden them to get justice.
    Rape is a heinous crime against women. I am glad that Indian media is maing a big deal about the ones in India without worrying about the negative image it portrays about India. Social change is necessary. I hope Pakistani media will do the same too rather than brushing things under the carpet.Recommend

  • gp65

    What makes you think the author was being flippant? These are literally the only options women may have in a country where conviction rate in reported rapes is less than 1% and where religious leaders rulings are so outdated – be it from JI or the CII.Recommend

  • Sane

    No one supports crimes like Rape. I support minimum death penalty for this crime. But, few have taken lot of advantage through rape whether real of just fake. Many have taken visas of US and European countries, made NOG and earned fortune.Recommend

  • castseye

    If women of a country have to put themselves on fire in order to get themselves heard then i must say that something is very very backward about this country.
    This country has not only degraded itself morally at public level but also internationally.
    It’s a shame that’s it’s name is “Islamic Republic Of Pakistan”. It’s name should be changed because nothing is Islamic in this country.
    Even those who do not have any religion still follow some code of morality but this country which claims itself as an Islamic Republic Of Pakistan has nothing to follow except illiterate Maulanas, and corrupt politicians then what to talk about Islam and morality.Recommend

  • jehadi believer

    to terrorize canada?Recommend

  • nishantsirohi123

    no , to feed on benefits, and then bring more relatives to CanadaRecommend

  • Moiz Omar

    Shameful current reality in Pakistan. People who excuse rapists are disgusting.Recommend

  • Mehreen

    People think stuff like this only happens in “villages” and places with higher illiteracy rates but that’s not true. Two girls were raped three months ago in the LIBRARY of their university while female workers at the UN office in Islamabad recently came clean about being sexually abused by their BOSSES. It’s these kind of incidents that makes me hate my own country. Disgusting.Recommend