Anti-rape law amendment: Another victory for Pakistan

Published: February 26, 2015
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Think about all the Mukhtaran Mais and the Kainat Soomros and the many faceless, nameless, sufferers in silence who have yet to receive justice just because a simple use of biotechnology is being kept away from the public. PHOTO: REUTERS

They say we have come a long way since the 80s – the fashions, the styles, the music, the technology. It seems like society is taking a giant leap forward when it comes to development and evolution given that the past couple of decades have been the ones that earmarked rapid changes in social progress.

When it comes to women in Pakistan, however, the graph seems to be erratic and stunted at best.

The 80s brought to the women of Pakistan a terrible code of injustice vis-à-vis the Hudood Ordinance, a retrogressive set of laws that we still have in place. Not to mention the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) that keeps insisting that DNA cannot be taken as primary evidence in rape cases, and can only be taken as corroborating evidence. CII insists that four witnesses are to be considered the primary evidence in considering rape.

The statistics continue to shock and awe Pakistanis as according to a Human Rights Watch report, rape takes place once every two hours and a gang rape every eight. One would logically assume that such a crime would instigate lawmakers and various other leaders with platforms and resources to pursue this cause relentlessly. One would logically assume that Pakistan should be working on crimes against women on a priority basis, especially since these crimes are often deep-rooted in power and are deeply institutionalised. The state becomes even more helpless in providing justice to the wronged just by virtue of no proper legal framework in place for rape victims.

On a less than grim note however, a parliamentary panel on Tuesday approved certain amendments in the anti-rape laws. This panel supported DNA profiling as crucial evidence during the investigation. Another excellent step was that the body also approved an amendment in Article 151, Order X of 1984. This bars the character assassination of victims during the trial.

The CII previously ruled against DNA evidence being admissible as primary root of investigation which could have completely negated the forensic strength of a case. With this new law in motion, not only will it be much easier to convict the perpetrator without much doubt but it will also help in fast and effective justice. For example, recently a historic rape kit was recovered in Houston that led to 850 hits in the FBI database. Think about it. Think about all the Mukhtaran Mais and the Kainat Soomros and the many faceless, nameless, sufferers in silence who have yet to receive justice just because a simple use of biotechnology is being kept away from the public.

Slut-shaming and victim-blaming is the beginning of the regressive spiral that propagates rape culture. It is extremely well-thought of to bring in legislation that bars character assassination and this, hence, places the blame on the perpetrator, where it should reside. For too long, women have witnessed and experienced rape apologia, stemming from “maybe you should have worn more conservative clothes” to “maybe you should just stay home and stay away from the world”.

While this is a positive and healthy step towards alleviating crimes against women in Pakistan, one must remember that this is a long and upward climb, and needs much more than condemnations and statements. There need to be more laws; clerics need to come up to speed with the modern day inventions without considering them a threat to their beliefs; social structure needs to be far more inclusive and accepting of rape victims or in the matter of any kind of abuse. There needs to be a collective movement in our country to stop these crimes from happening – a movement that starts with our homes and continues to the law making bodies and courts, and continues to shape events so that we, as women, feel safe, respected and equal in the state of Pakistan.

In a country like Pakistan where there are such few laws protecting women and bodies like CII have influence but refuse to put any focus on laws that govern child marriagefemale genital mutilationmarital rape and child abuse – rather seem obsessed with limiting women’s capacities as house-bound objects, this law is a huge step forward. This is an excellent reflection on how there is still political will that can be seen to protect our women from abuse and harassment. It gives one hope that eventually democratic powers will prevail and the fact is that true democracy represents the needs and wants of the common man.

Mahwash.Badar.

Mahwash Badar

The author is a clinical psychologist, a mum to two boys and permanently in a state of flux. She tweets @mahwashajaz_ (twitter.com/mahwashajaz_)

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

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    Hello. Hi. Yes. You my good madam. Welcome to Pakistan. Yes. The real one. Not the Utopian one. Yes the one without unicorns. Well seeing that you are here let me tell you about rape. It is endemic in our country and the neighboring one. There are no “steps in the right direction” as long as our police is corrupt. Even if you get forensics admitted who will arrest the rapist? None are more keen to let go of criminals than our police force. So all these bills and other things are nothing. Just mirages. Also most incidents are not even reported due to domestic pressure. Also many influential people just silence the victims. Oh and just an FYI. The mosque and madrassa at the corner are most probably centers of child abuse. Including rape. Recommend

  • normskyy

    You make valid points but have intertwined concepts completely alien to Pakistan – FGM is unheard of by the average person in Pakistan and would lead to the majority of people cringing.

    You also mention about avoiding accusations against the victim. Once again the issue is not the law, but our society which causes more harm to the victim in derogatory comments than often the perpetrator at the start.

    Sadly, however, the truth is laws mean nothing in Pakistan. We already have laws about child abuse but this is rappant through Pakistan as those tasked to enforce them are corrupt and ineffective. Our law enforcement officers will often rape the victim of rape when she comes to complain about a crime being committed on her. That’s not part of the law I assure you.Recommend

  • nouman

    may be your religious institutions are like that which you mention but ours Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Mahar

    Will a DNA test tell you whether a woman was raped or she had consensual sex? Women always cry foul when caught in the act.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    I think you took a dig at my being an ahmadi. Well my community runs a seminary in rabwah. Feel free to visit. Also let’s see if you can find any evidence of wrong doing from any unbiased newspaper.
    As far as madrassas run by other sects of Islam are concerned. Many many cases of child abuse and rape are reported each day. The most recent being the one where a child was rapped then hung to death in a mosque. The list goes on and on.
    But even then I would like to point out that it is you who made this a case of differentiation between sects. I personally think that no matter where a child is abused it is my responsibility to stop it. Therefore I consider it my responsibility to put these so called “religious” madrassas to order. Even if they are totally devoid of religion and full of hate and abuseRecommend

  • Parvez

    Mahwash, in Pakistan we have many laws on the books……..what we don’t have is the will to report THESE crimes and this is due to the lack of will to properly prosecute these crimes……. thus these laws seldom get implemented.
    I go back to my old refrain that our criminal judicial system is broken……the law makers would do well if they first fixed the system so that the laws they make could be effective but they DELIBERATELY don’t do this because it suits their selfish little worlds.Recommend

  • Educated

    There are many ways to tell if a woman has been raped. Don’t try to pin it on the victim because thats always what society has done.Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Mahar

    Then those “ways” should also be made part of the law. You see women victims only, ignoring the plight of men facing false rape charges Recommend

  • Sane

    Minimum punishment of rape is hanging in public. This is the only ways such crimes could be controlled. Otherwise, all other punishments would be just eye wash.Recommend

  • Critical

    Dude,I just hope u r sarcastic

    Forensics can easily determine whether a woman has been raped or had consensual sex…In case of date rape,forensics can also determine whether she was drugged at that time or not….

    DNA evidence is to nail the culprit when the culprit doesnt have evidenceRecommend

  • Ayesha

    Yes, because women are sadists and love the humiliation, shame and social stigmas that come with being a rape victim don’t they? And these “ways” that you assumed you had cleverly pointed out are the physical signs of abuse and force that are found on a victims body, which are a part of the medical exam.

    P.S: I feel really sorry for the women around you, I will personally pray for them. And I hope you’re able to find your way back from the stoneage.Recommend

  • David Crandall

    Women also cry foul when they are “assaulted”. In America, all a woman has to do is go to court and say, “he hit me” when in fact she was he perpetrator who cornered him and started the fight. She needs not witnesses or evidence. The man will plead guilty to get a lesser sentence.Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Mahar

    Consensual sex carries greater social stigma than rape. And just wait and watch. Men will be punished on the basis of DNA report alone. Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    Forensics can tell if the act was voluntary or not in five minutes. You can take swabs for DNA and analysts can then see if they are a match but forced and involuntary act is decided within minutes. Also forensics can tell if drugs like any of the date rape variety were used.
    People like you who have no knowledge of forensic techniques and then have the audacity to deny the fact that they help are one of the major reasons that Pakistan mistreats it’s women. Go do some reading. Get some knowledge and them comment. Don’t just spit out what the local mullah had told you.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    And rightfully so. I wish to see men punished at mere pointing of a wronged woman’s finger.Recommend

  • Mishael Gola

    “Slut-shaming and victim-blaming is the beginning of the regressive spiral that propagates rape culture.”
    Well said!
    The foundation of the violence is the belittling of the victim. That allows the rest to flow.
    eyesonmishael.blogspot.comRecommend

  • Yousuf Farhan

    Lol ironically, people don’t Carr about falsely accused men or rape victims. People only care about what society wants them too. There is no punishment bad enough for a rapist, but I can say the same format false rape accuser.
    Pakistani women hit men and get away with it, break lines at shops and tandoors simply because they are women, get lesser prison sentences, get aid when they are homeless unlike men, and then cry about.equality. I agree, women are wrongdoer there, but equality is.equality, act like men to be treated like.them. What about pointing a finger at a wronged man. No one even cares, ij every disaster, women and.children are mentioned separately in the news, because their lives matter more than their male counterparts. Sorry for all the typos….. Recommend

  • Yousuf Farhan

    I think to prevent stigma, people, the accused and the accuser, should be given complete anonymity unless proven guilty. Recommend