Sindh’s daughters raped as judiciary stands by

Published: June 28, 2010
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Cases rarely make it to court, and when they do verdicts are not often favorable.

If the condition of any society is to be judged by the way it treats its vulnerable and infirm than the level of violence against women and rape paints a very grim picture of the Pakistani society. Kainat Soomro’s story reflects the complex family and feudal interaction in cases particularly in Sindh. The 14-year-old 9th grade student was gang raped in 2007 but her case has gone on for years with dramatic twists and turns in which the culprits were released and later rearrested. Her brother was indicted in false cases and her entire immediate family has sought asylum in Karachi. Her education was hampered and she is still seeking justice.

Another recent case of 14-year-old Zulekha in village Johi, Dadu of the Leghari clan is taking a similar turn. The real culprits have escaped while the victim’s immediate family has been indicted in theft. Local non-governmental organisation, NDO, headed by Azra Memon is following the case but to what extent they will be able to support and help the victim? Besides the NGO’s limited capacity, Dadu lacks medico-legal and support from the police and judicial departments.

The case of 14-year-old Naseema Labano who was gang raped and made to parade naked in village Ubarvo, Sindh also shows how cruel customs prevail in our society and demonstrates how lack of justice to victims can empower criminals.

But its not just interior Sindh, even in posh areas of Karachi powerful families with political clout rape and abuse school girls. The crime goes unreported as is often the case in the affluent. According to WAR only two cases of rape were reported in DHA and Clifton this year.

Often the rapist is a familiar person or family member in the case of 4-year-old Sara. She was raped, one of her eyes had been gouged out and her limbs were broken by Kamran, her brother –in-law. This is the only case where the rapist was awarded a 20 year prison sentence in recent history. Cases rarely make it to court, and when they do inaccurate FIRs, lack of women medico-legal officers, and insufficient evidence mean verdicts are not often favorable.

Another major problem is the issue of defining assent to sexual intercourse even with under aged girls. There is no clear definition in our laws on the issue. In Pakistani society, the marriage of underage girls is acceptable so when a child is raped she is defined as ‘of marriageable age’ and therefore cannot file the case for sexual assault or rape. The child is often coerced into meeting her rapist and later if the complaint is lodged under 164, the case may go to court.

Most cases of rape and violent sexual assault in rich feudal families in villages and small town end in the victim’s death and remain unreported. In Sindh, the victims may be labelled Karo Kari and sacrificed to tradition without any judicial trial. The judiciary has not developed any mechanism with society to facilitate access of justice to survivors or their families.

Dr Meher Zaidi

Dr Meher Zaidi

A blog on development, health and human rights.

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