Justice for rape victims


Rape has long been endemic in Pakistan. More than 14,000 women across the country have been subjected to rape — nearly 11 a day — in the past four years, according to official data. These are just the number of reported cases and the tally would rise significantly if unreported and mismanaged cases were included. The state and the criminal justice system have failed miserably to curb the growing social evil as laws are not implemented and perpetrators are let off without punishment.

A similar incident occurred in Mithi town of Sindh, where a woman was allegedly gang-raped while travelling to Hyderabad. She was subsequently forced to resort to a jirga instead of lodging an FIR as the police were reluctant to register the case due to strong influence of local figures. After justice could not be served, her trauma and helplessness urged her to take the extreme action of committing suicide. Now, in usual Pakistani fashion, the police have booked two suspects and are looking to provide justice to the dead.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident. One of the reasons why the conviction rate of rape is deplorably low is because of the dominant narrative on women’s sexuality, as ambiguity regarding coercion and duress was initially introduced under the Hudood Ordinances of 1979. While legal standing has changed and rape criminalised under the Protection of Women Act and subsequent measures like the two-finger test being abolished, the pervading mindset remains regarding the female body remains. On such matters, the law must speak loud and clear so that authorities are able to implement them in the best possible manner without a possibility of interpretation. The courts need to seriously gear themselves up, clear all pending rape cases, and punish perpetrators in accordance with the law. It is about time that we gave victims the justice they deserve.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2022.

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