She was 13 and he was 39

Published: January 8, 2016
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Men face infidelity and are wronged and cheated in relationships too. But women, globally, end up paying a bigger price. PHOTO: FILE

The 15-year-old girl from Lahore gave her “consent” and he was her “boyfriend”, and so it is not rape, they say.

This case is garnering a very expected response. But why are we surprised? It reminds me of a case I came across a while back. A 13-year-old girl fell for her 39-year-old neighbour. They started chatting via the internet. One day, when she was home alone, he coerced her into having a sexual encounter. Reality was not as the girl had imagined. When it actually happened, she yelled, cried and resisted but was raped. But the men in her own family, her own relatives, were of the opinion that this incident should be brushed under the rug and no complain should be lodged with the police.

“Larki buhut taiz hai. Ghalti humari hi larki ki hai. Chakkar chalaya hua tha us aadmi se. Yeh to hona hee tha.”

(The girl is very fast. The fault lies with our girl. She had an affair with that man. This was bound to happen).

This is not to say that it is just men who further these stereotypes.

It would also be unfair to assume that only females are raped. Painful incidents where young boys are raped or sexually abused mercilessly keep surfacing on the media. But the numbers, compared to females, are jarringly lower. Hence, here we will discuss the predicament women are faced with.

Staring in our faces is the reality that unless a woman, of any age, has pushed away, kicked or tried to hit the man forcing himself upon her, and has signs of that physical scuffle in the form of torn clothes and bruises, she will not be considered a victim of ‘rape’. And even that will be accepted only if the man was a stranger practically. If at all she had an inclination towards the man and/or had any one-on-one communication with him at any point in the past, she will be considered one of loose character and having brought the ‘inevitable’ upon herself.

This definition of rape is so inbuilt in our society’s system that the idea of rape beyond this is considered… well… not rape. So much so that other categories of rape, in which some form of consent is present at some stage, may be involved from the woman’s side, are ruled off the list of kinds of rape in an absolutist fashion.

The girl gang raped in Lahore was a minor. Even if, hypothetically, she knew or liked the man, she is a child, not an adult. It is recognised as statutory rape even under Pakistani law which is generally not the most women-friendly. But a Pakistani publication went as far as using insensitive language like “…to meet her boyfriend…” and “the tests proved that the couple had been engaged in a consenting relationship”.

If this is the mentality being echoed by an English language publication, what thought process do we expect the average uneducated or less evolved Pakistani to exhibit? If the minor is not old enough to have a driver’s license or an identity card, is he or she old enough to discern and decide the consequences of indulging in a sexual relationship?

The 13-year-old girl I mentioned earlier was a normal, curious child who knew little what this encounter with her almost 40-year-old neighbour would lead to. But that man knew exactly what he was doing. How is this, then, not rape?

Another example is how every time we use the term “marital rape”, many, if not all, will express shock over the idea – shock that is genuine, as it is considered unthinkable that anything within the bond of marriage could be wrong. Others know what it means but say all is fair in nikkah and vows.

But perhaps the most insidious form of sexual exploitation is when a woman is exploited via emotional manipulation. Leading someone on with the pretence of commitment and promises of a marriage has led many girls and women in our society to points of no return. And this happens across the board – it is not restricted to urban or rural, affluent or underprivileged. After giving their all, women are left in the lurch.

Again, men face infidelity and are wronged and cheated in relationships too. But women, globally, end up paying a bigger price.

Thus in many cases, the seeming “consent” actually has layers of details in the background that one does not know. Talking about this is important so that as a society, we learn to understand the difference.

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz Zahidi

A writer and editor, who has worked as a Features Editor with The Express Tribune. Her focus is human-centric feature stories. She now writes as a freelancer, and works as a media trainer and communications practitioner. She tweets as @FarahnazZahidi (twitter.com/farahnazzahidi?lang=en).

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

  • afia

    very very sensitively explained… there are layers.. and so many shades of grey.Recommend

  • Vegetable Man

    Even if the 13 year old gave consent its still a crime as any contract with a minor is illegal and, by Law, the Court will (should) always defend the minor.Recommend

  • Farjad

    The most important part of the rape conundrum that needs to be changed in Pakistan is considering that the victim ‘had it coming’. And also the fact that after being raped is considered an automatic ‘disown’ from the family, which will go as far as marrying their own daughter to the man who raped her. This sick cultural dilemma that we are in further shames the name of Islam. It is highly depressing. I cannot fathom what a rape victim goes through, and then to think of their own mother and father abandon them or fail to support them in pursuit of justice. It is sickening. Great writing Farahnaz, favorite writer :)Recommend

  • MJ

    I agree with the entire article except the sentence:
    “Painful incidents where young boys are raped or sexually abused mercilessly keep surfacing on the media. But the numbers, compared to females, are jarringly lower. Hence, here we will discuss the predicament women are faced with.”

    First of all “jarringly” is not the word that the author should have used here. Why does her perceived disproportion have a harsh effect? Maybe the word that she was looking for was lopsided or disproportionate.

    Secondly, such crimes against boys don’t get reported in most cases. For example in parts of the tribal belt, rural areas of Punjab, as well as inner cities in Sindh male victims are supposed to accept it as normal. The person on the receiving end of such a transgression goes through unfathomable trauma and is scarred for life regardless of gender.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Talking and raising an awareness will only get you so far……Laws are made to address the ills in society and unless the lawmakers and those entrusted with implementing the laws ( our clergy also has a big role to play here ) have their hearts in doing their jobs properly nothing of substance will happen. This is a concern that needs a top down approach because this is a case where the people have to be told whats right and whats not. Our difficulty is to find people at the top with the will to do what is right.Recommend

  • http://www.cidpusa.org/ Imran Khan

    Its a Crime,Recommend

  • HZR

    Younger the better seems to be the rule and they should not complain but acpet the pain and humiliation.this is nothing but worse than pedophilia banned with severe punishment in most nationsRecommend

  • Sadaf

    a thirteen year old in no way gives consent . Children these days are exposed to so much hypersexualised trash on the net , from Bollywood and music videos . If there is no guidance , how can they understand right from wrong ?
    The parents of this girl must understand their responsibility too and instead of blaming her think about how they did not communicate the difference between right and wrong . I cannot imagine what this child is suffering and the amount of shame her own family is putting on her .Recommend

  • http://muslimweddingflight.com/ Fayaz Pasha

    Among all diseases, this crime is spreading like a rapid fire and has almost ruined the societies. Stringent punishment is the only answer to curtail this crime.Recommend