“Baaji, you never wear a dupatta. Does that mean you are also asking for it?”

Published: January 11, 2016
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The 15-year-old says she was held in a dark room where three attackers took turns to rape her over a two-week period. PHOTO: AFP

It was a despairing day for humanity on Sunday when yet another report of a horrendous rape broke out of South Asia. A 14-year-old Indian girl bravely took to television to share her story. She had been gang raped by three men for two weeks in a dark room before being pitilessly shot after she had been told she was being let go.

Speaking of her ordeal to the NDTV news network, the teenager said that the three attackers took turns to rape her over a two-week period.

“After a fortnight of repeated abuse, one night they said they will let me go. They put me in the car and drove to a store to buy alcohol and then parked the car near a well.”

The first bullet struck her bone, sending her into shock. The impact of the second knocked her out. Later, the young rape survivor woke up in a well outside of New Delhi, dumped like a discarded object by her three assailants. Here, she pulled a bullet out of her chest before her screams for help reached nearby villagers. When speaking to the media, the survivor of this attack only expressed desire for justice,

“I want the rapists to be hanged. No one should go through what I did.”

Across the border, in Pakistan, a few days earlier, a similarly horrific story was making the rounds.

From Bahawalnagar’s Chistian district, a seven-year-old boy was abducted and viciously gang raped, after which his lifeless body was discarded in the fields. Police said that the men behind the crime were rich and influential individuals. The boy, after being violated, had been strangled by a rope, suffocated to death.

The frequency with which these horrendous incidents continue to occur in both India and Pakistan is both frustrating and depressing. Why can’t our men contain their sexual desires? Why do they have such little value for another person’s life or body?

A clue to this mind-set can be found in the comments sections of official Pakistani and Indian newspaper pages on Facebook, where readers from both sides of the border engage in discourse more suitable for nine-year-olds at a playground. Admittedly, many of the insults exchanged are amusingly clever, where anything from accomplishments on the cricket field, to economic strength, to the number of toilets, to victories on the battlefield, are used as ammunition in what is nothing short of a troll war.

Unfortunately, when it comes to reports of rape, the discussions are simply nauseating.

Rather than empathising with those attacked, commentators from either country take the opportunity to fire cheap shots at each other, mocking the nation where the crime took place, and using the individuals who were raped as fodder for their imbecilic agenda.

To the Pakistanis and Indians reading this, let’s get something straight – rape is nothing to gloat over. It is nothing to make light of. It is an immeasurably evil crime against humanity where the survivor suffers a nightmarish ordeal.

A human being’s body is sacred. It is only up to them to do with it as they please. To violate this boundary is to commit an offensive of the highest order.

Victims do survive after the act, but to persevere requires great inner strength. This strength is sometimes drawn from the support of others.

Empathy with a survivor shouldn’t be restricted by invisible boundaries human beings drew across lands ages ago. When we, as Pakistanis, mock India for a rape incident or vice versa, in effect, we are part of the problem. We are, in essence, validating the act because it took place in another country.

No, it is not okay for a person to get raped. Not in India, not in Pakistan, not anywhere.

While we taunt each other over rape incidents, we overlook the fact that rape is an incessant problem in our nations. The reports are frequent, brutal, and bone chilling.

Clearly, reformation has to start with our attitudes.

There was the case of ‘India’s Daughter’, Jyoti Singh, attacked by a group of six men. After being brutally gang raped, where she suffered injuries to her ‘abdomen, genitalia and intestines’, her insides were torn out, before she was thrown away.

According to News.com.au,

“They hit her and dragged her to the back. Then they went in turns. First the juvenile and Ram Singh. After that, Akshay and the rest went. Someone put his hand inside her and pulled out something long. It was her intestines.”

Shockingly, one of her attackers was let go after a short prison term because he was tried as a juvenile at the time of the crime.

More disturbing was the justification offered by one of the gang rapists,

“A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. Boy and girl are not equal. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20 per cent of girls are good. When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape.”

In Lahore, a 15-year-old girl was gang raped by as many as eight men, where the main accused held an important position in Pakistan’s ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

Without good reason, a prominent publication, The Friday Times, published a seedy gossip column, using the opportunity to assassinate the girl’s character. To see such filth written by journalists was incredible. It was not only unethical and unprofessional, but displayed a lack of competence.

Yes, it is perplexing that the ignoramuses’ at The Friday Times did not know a 15-year-old simply cannot give consent. For an adult to have sex with a minor is rape. Period.

Is it a mere coincidence that Najam Sethi, a journalist, who without justification was put in charge of the cricket board by the PML-N, ran a story that broke all rules of journalism, which incidentally maligned the survivor of a rape case where the accused also happened to be a PML-N  member?

Equally offensive has been the way Pakistan TV channels have covered the case, like vultures circling a survivor for a chance to feed.

The lack of apathy is not only existent amongst rapists, journalists, and internet trolls, but members of the public as well. While I can’t speak of India, I can certainly share an incident from Pakistan.

A few years ago, a domestic helper’s young sister was abducted from the DHA area in Karachi. She was known to our family. While waiting for her sibling, the young girl was kidnapped by a group of men from outside her place of work.

The domestic helper’s employers are a prominent political couple, and tirelessly used their clout to pressurise law enforcement into action.

For days, the girl was untraceable. Finally, her phone connected briefly, long enough to trace her location to a remotely located hut. Here, she was rescued, while her depraved attackers were arrested, one of whom sported a beard up to his belly.

Understandably, the survivor of the attack was traumatised, though her ordeal didn’t end there. Almost immediately, she was taken back to her village by her sister because she was being shunned by her community in the big city. But her sibling confessed that she would wear a stigma in her village as well, and would be unable to find solace.

Disturbingly, the attitude of shaming and blaming the survivor extended to people in the neighbourhood that employed the young girl’s sister. They had learned about the case when the domestic worker had reached out to them in hopes of locating her missing sibling.

Before she left for her village, she shared with us some of the responses she had had to put up with from the rich and educated residents of DHA:

“It was your sister’s fault. Why did she make herself a target?”

“Your sister must have a bad character.”

“I could tell from your sister’s eyes that she was this type.”

But the worst came courtesy of a well-to-do socialite,

“No one is blameless. I noticed your sister sometimes forgot to wear a dupatta. She was asking for it. Maybe deep inside this is what she wanted.”

Here, the domestic worker retorted, leaving her employer speechless,

Baaji (sister), you, your daughter, and your bahu (daughter-in-law) never leave the house wearing a dupatta. You wear western attire. Does that mean you are also asking for it?”

No, no one is ever asking for it. What we all are asking for, however, is a modification of our mental outlooks.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

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

  • GKA

    This is exactly the approach the miscreats of Cologne took. Germany better take case – all western women need to wear the abaya and a dupatta otherwise they are, in the yes of the migrants, acceptable targets. Germany’s laws and its value have no relevanceRecommend

  • salman

    Well written.

    “Why can’t our men contain their sexual desires?”
    Because they are not men, but animals.
    If men can’t control their urges, then they are no different to a dog on heat.Recommend

  • talha usmani

    Until and unless capital punishment will not be enforced upon the rapists and that also in quick time, the attitudes towards rape will never change in the society. The rapist always feels that streets are a open source for capturing girls and minors and conduct whatever dirty fantasies they have hidden inside them and not just simple fulfillment of sexual desire. A very shameful mindset of the whole community.Recommend

  • Arsha

    Very touching article. Most people do not stop to feel or think what horror a person goes through as a victim of rape. It is worse than murder. it is a violation that goes deep into the soul. If you would stop for a few moments to imagine yourself in that person’s shoes your entire being would shudder and revolt. It is that horrible a crime. How can anyone blame the victim – it is beyond all reason.Recommend

  • Parvez

    On issues that effect society as a whole the only solution is for civil society to have a show of strength so that ‘ zero tolerance ‘ is adopted and justice is forced to be done and our lawmakers and bureaucrats are forced to take notice.
    This is happening in India, possibly in a small way, but it is happening……with us even creating an awareness is ‘ shot down ‘ and that too not only by men but women as well.
    Another point, ills in our system are so prevalent that as one gets attended, the next rears its head…….already the deaths of infants in THAR is making the news AGAIN.Recommend

  • Raghu

    IF woman does not wear dupatta, she is not asking for it. But, for sure, she is unknowingly inciting the other gender.Recommend

  • Haris

    To say it is high time that something is done about this gruesome and endless disease that is plaguing our side of the world, would be a very gross understatement. As the writer has very elaborately detailed that the act itself is not as gruesome, as is the mindset which the patriarchal society of south Asia is blessed with. The only solution possible is a mass education drive, the patriarchal worm that inhabits the minds of our youth as a courtesy of the upbringing from their “buzurg” needs to be completely eradicated. We need to see a complete generation of educated individuals that are free from the corrupted thought processes and societal norms established by their society. Education is key.Recommend

  • raj

    I m not at all astonished on the fact that a lot of people in Pakistan and India are still uneducated about such issues. Even educated people does such crimes. It is still shocking people in both the countries do not think for second that may be movies and media does have a role on effecting the psychology of the nationRecommend

  • Saher

    No one is asking for it and it might happen to those as well who dress modestly but it is still better to dress modestly anyway. For our religion has set boundaries for women so as not to attract the opposite gender. Even though the rapists are to be blamed entirely but better be safe than sorry by taking suitable measures in dressing and interaction.Recommend

  • Milind A

    “lot of people in Pakistan and India are still uneducated about such issues.”

    This attitude is not related to uneducatedness… I’ve seen Engineering Toppers hold misogynist opinions on how girls are responsible for rapes…One doesn’t need any education to understand that rape is an evil, regardless of whoever’s fault it is.. Any country bumpkin with values would be equally abhorred by it..Recommend

  • Bahawal shair Dogar

    You know the only way to deal with such animals is to hang them publicly. U may not like this approach but believe it is the right approach! I can give u a hundred reasons why! Recommend

  • MEHMOOD

    Great articleRecommend

  • raj

    And thats what I said after the line you quoted my friend. Read my full opinion first :)Recommend

  • http://callncallpest.com/ Nabeel Hashmi

    Its all fault is responsibly of Indian government , Its doing be bad reputation in the world.Recommend

  • Ali

    Stupidest comment i have ever seen.
    You do realize women and men will ALWAYS attract the opposite sex. And what the heck is with the part of your comment about interaction? You find men and women in the examples of the Quran and sunnah interacting. Why didnt they rape or end up getting raped?

    Islam doesnt set boundaries on women. Its the sadistic and backwards culture, that many Pakistanis seem to have.Recommend

  • Ali

    Again, bkaming the woman.
    Its time we stop thinking God created women only as sex objects.Recommend

  • Arsha

    What a gross comment. Boundaries on women to not attract men? So women should lock themselves up in a black box cause otherwise an attraction between a man and woman is the most natural thing in the world ?
    And what are the boundaries on men so they don’t attract women or you think women are not even allowed to have sexual thoughts?

    And what modest dress will you advocate for children who get raped?

    This is the mentality that is bringing us down. Recommend

  • Saher

    Unlike you, I am not going to judge you or call you names based on your opinion. However, I would definitely like to correct you here! They did not end up raping or getting raped because they were conforming to the boundaries set by Islam.

    – When Islam asks women to not talk to men too gently so as not to get them attracted, that is a boundary.

    – When Islam asks men to lower their gaze upon seeing a woman that is a boundary.

    Cross any of these and you are giving way to worse things to happen. Yes men and women interacted as per the examples of Quran and Sunnah but there was no free mixing, no boundaries were crossed.Recommend

  • Saher

    There are boundaries for men as well as women. Just as women have to dress modestly and not be too polite or flirty with men, not lock themselves up in a black box, similarly men have to lower their gaze and control their lust. Boundaries are for both the genders.

    As you can see in my original comment, the rapists are to be blames entirely hence for the case of children, the dressing doesn’t come in. However, parents should be more alert and aware of the whereabouts of their young ones at all times. Its a precaution similar to the precautions a woman should take while dressing up and interacting with men which is similar to the precautions a man should take.

    Just a better understanding of our religious teachings can help us better grasp these ideas.Recommend

  • Asy ma wail !

    Milind ! education doesn’t always mean literacy, I have seen wonderfully educated people with no degrees to brag about and on the other hand, as you mentioned, the sophisticated degree holders lacking basic education.Recommend

  • Ali

    Yeah im gonna have to correct you here. Because like many Pakistanis, you see rape as the fault of women. Just shows how uncivilized Pakistam is.
    Firstly, when the Quran says women should not be soft, it means they shouldnt speak in a seductive manner. It doesnt say women will get raped for speaking like that.

    Lowering the gaze refers to not lustfully leering at women.

    Pakistani society is patriarchal and sexist. On top of the poor law enforcement, rape pretty much becomes normalized.

    I suggest you Pakistanis learn from the west on how to see women as equal.Recommend

  • Arsha

    A rape does not happen because of a certain type of dress…. Most women in Asia dress very modestly and yet rapes are a daily occurrence…. Please explain why.
    There is no correlation between dress and rapes. It’s everything to do about a sick, oppressed, insecure, mentality that considers women a lower being. No amount of religion will cure that. So every time in response to an article about rape you give advice to women to dress modestly gives a signal that women who do not dress within any specific person’s person definition of modesty are open game. Please be sensitive to the topic and refrain from such awful statements.Recommend

  • Saher

    I never said I see rape as the fault of the woman. I stated the opposite in fact. However, you will continue to infer only what you want to infer.

    If a scantily clad woman is roaming around among men, and put religion aside, she is free to do so and if she gets raped only the rapists are to be blamed for the act. However, her dressing that way did whet the sexual appetite of many perverts out there who later end up attacking her or in their frustration someone else completely unrelated to the situation.

    Yes the Pakistani society is patriarchal and sexist so in such a society it is better to dress so as not to appear seductive to anyone, even though your intention never was to appear as one in the first place.

    Now bring religion back in and put rape aside. Ain’t it better to dress as per the code mentioned in our religious teachings? It MUST be for our better, won’t it?Recommend

  • Ali

    Well you’re wrong again. Go see rape statistics. Government reports issued by scholars prove clothing plays no role in a woman getting raped. In the Scandinavian countries women wear whatever and go wherever without harassment.
    And tell me, what do you mean by dressing modestly? You mean wearing burkas, and being housewives.Recommend

  • Maria

    Very deep and thought provoking article !
    Im shock to read comments below people who believe that if a woman is dressed up appropriately, her chances of being raped would be minimized.. its just wow. Ironically, hats off to your thoughtd. By the way, if you get a chance to know about girls from the most elite and upper class,even there are females who belong to upper middle class family, they are most into promoting western culture, wearing western dresses, they could have been raped too, if its all about the dress code, after all there is a circle of classes in our society, one above the other, anyone superior in wealth or power than the other can commit such horrendous act of rape. Mostly girls being raped belongs to middle class families, and they dont wear short dresses like Alia bhatt. Then. why they get raped??? If a man is really a man, he knows what it means to be a human being, he knows moral values, he obey islam at the least, even if he would see a girl wearing the most seductive dress, he wont rape her. Guys its all about the mindset, your perspective, a person’s mental outlook not only just dress code. And by the way we live in Pakistan not in US, where majority of girls wear shalwar kameez, now if its not the modest kind of dressing then what else is… Few of you want it to make a debate, instead of criticizing, contempting and disparaging those reprehensible for such hortible crimes… So kindly wakeup and make your part to bring a positive change in society.Recommend

  • khanuu

    in my opinion you cannot stop rapes until there are harsh punishments for it, i.e. cutting the male genitals or hang them, and one day there will be no rape,
    second thing we should be supportive to rape victims, like i ll never reject someone on the basis that she was raped, it wasnt her fault,Recommend

  • Komal Hassan

    this article has points very logical and it shed light on something that i was thinking day and night… that is the mentality of our culture…Recommend

  • Komal Hassan

    “Baaji (sister), you, your daughter, and your bahu (daughter-in-law) never leave the house wearing a dupatta. You wear western attire. Does that mean you are also asking for it?”…………….this phenomenon have become our culture……..it is very common ….our people need to groom themselves to think logically and optimistically…Recommend

  • Komal Hassan

    Thanks Noman for sharing such a topic.. theze are topics we must discuss… our community need to change their narrow paradigmRecommend

  • Komal Hassan

    Thanks Noman for sharing this articleRecommend