“Baaji, you never wear a dupatta. Does that mean you are also asking for it?”
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.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.