In Pakistan, we have 13-year-old rape victims

Published: March 17, 2016
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The community blames the victim’s family for not protecting her “honour”. PHOTO: AFP

The terrible news of a 13-year-old girl, raped and impregnated by her teacher in Larkana, Sindh, breaks the heart over and over again. The only good thing about this is that the teacher has been arrested, and has confessed to the crime (now that the child is four months pregnant).

A powerful essay talks about how nobody in the government has taken notice of this case. Worse, the community blames the victim’s family for not protecting her “honour”. Supposedly they should have protected her “honour” by either never letting her go to school in the first place, or by killing her as soon as they realised what had happened to her.

(I saw this same kind of victim-blaming in a recent blog written by a domestic violence victim in the US. From a Pakistani family, she writes about how she was mentally and emotionally tortured by her husband and his family. The comment section is full of people blaming her family for getting her married to him in the first place — as if they knew he would be like this, when most families hide their sons’ anger management problems and tendencies to violence.)

On the other hand, there was good news in this case, where a man in Karachi was convicted and sent to jail for ten years because he raped and impregnated his niece. He denied all the accusations by the victim, but a DNA test proved him to be the father of her baby.

This is good news because it shows that the Pakistan Penal Code is fully equipped to deal with rape cases. Previously, they were dealt with under the Hudood Ordinance, but reforms made the rape clauses in the Ordinances defunct, shifting their ambit to the PPC instead. Sections 376 (punishment for rape) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code were applied in this case.

It also shows the absolute necessity of DNA testing in cases of rape, a move that the Sindh government instituted last year. The Council of Islamic Ideology, which is trying to fight the Women’s Protection Bill tooth and nail in KPK, opposed the use of DNA testing in rape cases. It’s great to know that they were not successful and that the DNA testing is helping rape victims.

The CII and many conservative minds think that the threat of “Islam” is enough to stop rape from happening altogether, but it’s more the case that rapists don’t really think about “Islam” when they’re committing their crimes. Religion is meant to deal with the spiritual consequences of these crimes, but it is man-made laws that deal with the legal consequences on this earth. Still, laws like the Women’s Protection Act and the Domestic Violence bills can be seen as complimenting and supplementing divine law rather than working against it – IF your intention is to actually protect women and girls, not rapists.

But the sum of this is that the Pakistani state must continue to make improvements in its prosecution and conviction of rapists. Rape must be considered a crime against the state, not the individual, so that the entire state machinery can be effectively used to bring these criminals to court and then jail.

Women victims of rape like the ones in these cases (and Kainat Soomro and Mukhtaran Mai) who have been brave enough to speak out about their ordeals and see them through to their legal conclusion must be supported in their communities and by the state as well. It is very difficult to buck tradition which says girls and women who are raped must remain silent, or worse, pay the price for having been raped.

Individual courage and state responsibility can work miracles even in a country like ours.

bina.shah

Bina Shah

Author of A Season For Martyrs. She tweets @BinaShah (twitter.com/BinaShah)

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

  • Guestie

    There are 13 year old rape victims everywhere.Stop dramatizing everything with Pakistan.Recommend

  • Midhat Shahab

    That doesn’t make this “ok” to happen in Pakistan if it happens everywhere.
    Stop dramatizing??? The crime is so heinous that no words can describe the severity of it..let alone dramatize it.Recommend

  • mua

    there are, but only in pakistan and such countries would you see the victim being blamed. As long as we remain ostriches with our heads in the ground, we would continue in the same trajectory as we are already going.Recommend

  • Salman Shareef

    I can not understand the logic and mental level of these liberals why they portray the negative image of Pakistan all the time ?Recommend

  • Fahim

    On my visit to UK, I have read an article in news paper while travelling in train where judge dismissed a case of raping a 16 years old girl as the judge thought that girl had manipulated the case and framed her teacher. I found that article in guardian of January 2015, by Julie Bindel. Certainly we have more problem as compare to Western countries due to social stigmas where rapist walk freely with proud while innocent child live his life in fear. Law can’t make any difference because judges are from society and as well as law makers. Recommend

  • brar

    You are right do you want to burry all the dust under the carpet and explain what is dramatisation in this , why you think if such things are high lighted the name of the country is disfigured, accept it is there in our socities and we will have to fight it tooth and nail. You are like those Mullas who are against the protection of women bill.Recommend

  • knightridrr

    It doesn’t make the crime any less horrible.Recommend

  • Mustajab

    Could not agree more this with your comment. What ever happened is condemnable but doesnot mean that we make a fuss about it and relate every thing with “Women’s Protection Bill”. And sorry Bina, Islam indeed is indeed enough to defend women right. But we are blindly inspired by western way of women protection and empowerment that we think there is more to be added. Peace :)Recommend

  • Anwaar

    so by this logic we should not highlight menace of Rape? .. *fitay mun*Recommend

  • Parvez

    The argument put forward by ‘ protectors of Pakistan’s image ‘ that rape occurs everywhere and so discussing it in Pakistan’s context is wrong……is simply not tenable. A crime is a crime and a wrong is a wrong, that needs to be addressed, irrespective of where it occurs.
    On the Protection of Women’s Bill the argument made by the ‘ religious right ‘ that this is a concept IMPORTED from the ‘ west ‘ needs to be strongly opposed because the concept of Women’s Right is very clear in the Quran and religious texts. The fact that these rights have been hijacked by the ‘ religious right ‘ ( who should in fact up hold them ) for centuries, in order to promote a male dominated environment…… is what needs to be stressed.Recommend

  • gp65

    As an Indian, I was happy, not sad, when the Nirbhaya gang rape was widely covered in the Indian media. Though it is regrettable that this temporarily gave an impression abroad that rapes are far more common in India than they actually are, still it was a price well worth paying. Why? Because unless you highlight an evil, it will not be rooted out. Civil society came out in tens of thousands to demand not just that the government quickly catch the rapists and punish them but also that outdated British era laws are replaced with modern laws. The government was forced to appoint a committee to review the law and in fact the outdated law was replaced by a much more modern law on violence against women.
    Do you not wish the same for Pakistani women too?Recommend

  • gp65

    If Islam were indeed enough to defend the rights of women then hundreds of thousands of Bengali women would not have been raped in 1971.
    The fact is that the beasts that actually indulge in rape really do not practice any religion even if they may worship in a mosque, temple or a church. They are hedonists who only care about what they like not what God likes.
    My comment is not against Islam which I do not fully understand but against using Islam to resist laws that protect women.Recommend

  • gp65

    I would go one step further. Those that rape are simple beasts that really do not believe in any God regardless of whether they worship in a mosque, temple, church or an agiyari. So the method to deal with them cannot be found in any religious text.Recommend

  • gp65

    YEs and in other places there are modern laws to deal with rapists. That is what the author would like for Pakistan also.
    Rape of a 13 year old is heinous. How can you possibly dramatize it further.Recommend