‘Revenge rapes’: Why are Pakistani women constantly paying for the sins of their men?

Published: April 1, 2018
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We say we’re trying to change, that we want women to have equal rights, but how long can we continue to make these claims without doing anything about it? PHOTO: PINTEREST

Toba Tek Singh is one part of the country that makes headlines quite often. So often, in fact, that I’ve become inclined to reading its name in print. This time, however, I didn’t skim over the content, as I typically do. This headline, after all, was not like the others.

Ten people were taken into police custody for ordering the rape of a woman as revenge. Yes, that’s right. They gave an explicit order for a woman to be raped; for her ‘dignity’ to be snatched away from her. All for the price of revenge.

We live in a society that thrives off of using women. Need a body? Take my sister, they say. Need someone to blame? Take my wife, they say. Need a scapegoat? Take my mother, they say. They are always taking from women; taking more than we can give. It’s always been like this, yet some days I can no longer stand it. It hurts to think of. It hurts just to read these headlines.

We say we’re trying to change, that we want women to have equal rights, but how long can we continue to make these claims without doing anything about it? The line of morality has by now been crossed so many times, it has seemingly dissolved completely. No one knows where the boundaries lie anymore.

I think of this woman, living in a society where she is bargained off for punishment, one where this act is almost a norm, and one where a woman’s body is simply an asset to be procured – a means to an end – and I’m sick of it. I’m sick of writing the same article about the same mentally disturbed human beings. I’m sick of it, because no one seems to be listening, or changing, or doing anything about it.

Panchayat’s are meant to be the people’s court, but which people are they favouring? Certainly not women; those who need it the most. Are women not people?

On March 20, 2018 Wasim Shehzad raped his neighbour. Do these words make a difference to you? Do they make you feel anything at all? Probably not, because Pakistanis read about this multiple times every day. Not a day goes by without rape making the news. Violence against women, and children keeps on rising. And we keep talking about it, with no change in sight.

Shehzad’s family then asked for forgiveness. In my opinion, rape can never be forgiven. Forcing yourself upon a woman is not something that just goes away with an “I’m sorry”. In response, the victim’s family put up the notion of revenge rape, for which they were allowed to choose any woman from Shehzad’s family.

This entire scenario just baffles me. After having known what their daughter went through, how can they even think of putting another woman through the same? If the rape of their daughter makes them angry enough to demand justice, why are they subjecting someone else’s daughter to the same? Why are women constantly paying for the sins of the men in their lives? This is inhumane and animalistic at its core. How is this justice, when both women are clearly being failed?

Subsequently, a 40-year-old woman was raped by a 16-year-old boy – the victim’s brother – as if this were a casual transaction. As if it was his right to avenge his sister’s rape, by doing the same to another’s. As if the woman’s body was just there, waiting, because her purpose is solely to serve.

Women have come too far to be pushed back into the role of service.

This begs the question: what is wrong with Pakistan? Why are we so constantly and so thoroughly failing our women? Is it the panchayats that are problematic? Is it the mob mentality? Or is there something else inherently flawed in our society?

There is no simple way to answer this, and I don’t really know what the answer would be. All I know is: a woman was forced to pay the price for the crimes of another, and this is not something we should be able to live with.

What happened in Toba Tek Singh is just one example; it is the rule here, not the anomaly. There are countless other instances of the same, ones that never make it to the forefront. Shehzad is just another rapist. The victim’s 16-year-old brother is just another boy raised in a ridiculous system that didn’t teach him any better. The 40-year-old victim is just another ‘consequence’ in people’s eyes.

However, this is where we go wrong. Women will never simply be objects, just there to satisfy someone else’s requirements. A woman’s body, her mind, and her power is all her own, and no one should be allowed to take that away from her. This power won’t just be given to us though; we need to take it ourselves.

To the panchayats: keep your policies off our bodies.

To the men: learn to be better, for the women in your lives.

Most importantly, to the women: Don’t give up. We can, we have, and we will conquer this hurdle as well.

Maheen Humayun

Maheen Humayun

The writer studied Literature and Creative Writing from John Cabot University in Rome. She is the author of the novella Special. She is currently a sub-editor at Tribune. She blogs at karachiiloveyou.wordpress.com/ and tweets @MaheenHumayun

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

  • Sami Thinker

    What should be done to stop this menace ?Recommend

  • It’s Economy Stupid

    “There was not a single day — not a single day — when she didn’t see a woman shot or hacked, strangled or suffocated, poisoned or burnt, hanged or buried alive. Suspicious husband, brother protecting his honor, father protecting his honor, son protecting his honor, jilted lover avenging his honor, feuding farmers settling their water disputes, moneylenders collecting their interest: most of life’s arguments, it seemed, got settled by doing various things to a woman’s body.” ‘Our Lady of Alice Bhatti,’ by Mohammed HanifRecommend

  • AJ

    It shocks me, it really really shocks me. What is happening. May Allah protect the weaker ones and give wisdom to the stonger ones.Recommend

  • SAA

    Rape and Panchayat members should be executed within 24 hours. No body will do injustice. No complaints and regrets.Recommend

  • Sajeda Rashid

    to the women…. teach your sons better… the cradle is your power house..Recommend

  • Feroz

    It is the laxity of the law enforcement machinery and the impotency of the judicial system that allows this practice to continue and flourish. Sad that nobody else could identify the problem.Recommend

  • MJ

    Q: ‘Revenge rapes’: Why are Pakistani women constantly paying for the sins of their men?
    Short Answer: Because weak men consider women as their property and don’t treat them like a human being or person.Recommend

  • Sane

    Law enforcers and powerful politicians are the main culprits for not stopping this rather encouraging.Recommend

  • Sane

    Hang the culprits (including supporters) in public after speedy trial not exceeding a month.Recommend

  • Sane sid

    Forget Zia and arrest Hafeez Saeed…..Recommend

  • Sane

    To stop such menace in India arrest Modi.Recommend

  • Andrew Davis

    I had composed a lengthy comment to this article, but then I decided to discard it. There is no use in commenting about such matters on social media or anywhere else for that matter, as those in dire need of correction are not going to be bothered about reading something which is against what they have done. Additionally, it would be better for a person to actively try to do whatever he/she can to change a situation rather than sit in the comfort of their living/drawing/bedrooms and comment frantically on such or any matter of grave concern.

    The root causes of such matters have been identified. Over and over again. On many different forums and different mediums. Has this stopped such events from occurring? Have people who regularly approach the panchayats and such types of institutions stopped approaching them? Has the situation for women in rural areas improved? Has sexual harrassment and threat to the livelihood (not to mention the threat to the honour) of women been erased?

    I think not. The situation is only worsening. Maybe I am being pessimestic; or maybe I am too realistic for my own good, but the fact of the matter remains that my comment or lack thereof on such matters isn’t making the difference it should be making.Recommend