Rape Is A Pandemic In Pakistan With State, Judiciary, Media And Police All Unable To Offer Protection

Rape Is A Pandemic In Pakistan With State, Judiciary, Media And Police All Unable To Offer Protection
A few days back Shirin Gul and I penned our anger on F9 Park rape case of Islamabad. The culprits were arrested and positively identified by the rape survivor on February 15 at the CIA police station, I-9, Islamabad.

The rapists not only accepted the crime but also disclosed of having raped approximately 50 women in different sectors of Islamabad. There are many registered rape cases against them and one of which included one woman raped 14 times in one night.

Yesterday Islamabad police released information that both of them have been killed in a police encounter i.e. extra judicial killing. The survivor was again called-in to identify the bodies that she did.

This was a case of a serial rapist and had it happened in a rights’ based society, there would have been an outcry but unfortunately, we in Pakistan do not believe in women having any right including right to life.

Women are treated in our societal construct as an object which is violated, murdered, raped, gang raped and disfigured to demonstrate the power of men which is so conveniently packaged as honour killing. Rape is sensationalised as a crime of passion instead of calling it for what it is - a heinous act. For society it is an opportunity of victim blaming.

Rule of law – application to dispensation - is non existent in our country. The police, with an exception of 15-20%, is untrained, under resourced, and corrupt sans any accountability. Police encounters are the easiest to settle via personal or paid scores. We have no dearth of Rao Anwaars here.

The Pakistani judiciary stands at meritorious level of 139/140 in global index. There are millions of pending cases and people die in quest for justice to die in jail and are acquitted. In this context rape, Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Violence Against Women (VAW) are not considered as acts of crime. More often than not they are swept under that filthy rug of dsomestic or family matter that should be solved within four walls and women should never speak out about them in public. Those who do dare to even start a conversation around the abuse females suffer are labelled as western agents or characterless whose sole aim is to enable women to have free sex out on open roads – which men already force women to do in the form of rape.

Having returned from the press conference held by rights activists and lawyers of the F9 Park rape survivor held at National Press Club Islamabad, it is clear we need to address issues in a firmer manner.

Dr. Farzana Bari (CSO activist & member Special Investigation Team SIT), Ms. Sabrina and Ms. Imaan Mazari – lawyers of the survivor, held a comprehensive presser.

There were informed of most harrowing details of the rape, who the rapists were and how the police handled it. Islamabad is a small city.

Given it is the capital city the country there is an expectation that the journalists who reside and work here will be informed, aware, sensitized and aware due to the plethora of trainings have been held for them by all most all international agencies to raise their legal, procedural, social awareness on GBV, VAW and its reporting.

Yet the event today was a horrific reminder that despite everything, these journalists too held the same general perception of society that blames the victim for incidents of rape/GBV and believe that killing a suspect is a correct thing.

What hurt the worst is the condoning of these extra judicial killings by the crime reporters! Their attitude reflected their dismissiveness to the cause of crime reporting and understanding law of the land. Not even one raises the question that how could a “not so elite rapist gang” could go on raping spree in Islamabad of 50 known cases and be roaming free for years? Is it possible without the police being a collaborator and being a part of enforced disappearances? At that moment I saw millions of dollars going down the drain.

Some of the questions that these journalists asked were:

  1. “You people (meaning the CSO & rights sctivist) are always cribbing and agitating against administration that they don’t do anything they don’t apprehend culprits. But now they have and killed the rapists – which is good, and yet you are here to do a presser asking why the rapists have been killed?”

The above question was asked by a female journalist.

  1. Why was the media was not taken in the loop when lawyers were hired and when the SIT was formed by the police, which had CSO representatives? We were going pillar to post to get information. Had you told us then we would have reported more on it. Secondly, when we see pictures of those killed by police [the rapists] they appear so innocent and poor that I want to file a case against State that is responsible for their marginalization.”

This was asked by a female journalist.

  1. “Why is the woman [the rape survivor] not here? How did she identify them?”

This female journalist apparently could not understand how the rape victim was able to identify the rapists.

  1. “You (lawyers) are the culprits, you take cases of criminals, do corruption in courts and are in cohorts with police and that is how criminals go scot free. So this is good that the police has killed them. At least the survivor and her family can be in peace that justice has been done.

Asked by a male journalist.

  1. “Why are you doing this presser? Where is victim, she should have been here?”

Upon being told that as per law, the identity of rape survivor cannott be disclosed, this male journalist went on to ask if the rape victim had even gone to court without understanding that before the rapists could actually be tried they were killed by the police.

There were countless questions on the confirmation of identification of rapist by survivor despite that been explained that the survivor has twice positively identified and confirmed rapist.

Only 2 questions were on merit (i) IGP Islamabad  informed Senate committee that rapist are yet to be apprehended which as per chronology of presser is a lie, so would a complaint be filed against him; (ii) what do you demand from the State.

Overall, 75% of the pack hall of crime reporters were of the view that

  1. The police has done the right thing by killing the rapists.

  2. If more details could be shared about the rape victim.

The second question is understandable as it is asked for sensationalist purposes but majority of them either didn’t know or ignored the fact that as per law a rape survivor’s identity can’t be disclosed by either police or media. But they don’t care about it because for channel rating to personal VLOGs breaking the news and getting pettiest information is a feather in their cap.

This is not the first time I have heard it.

While, evaluating a juvenile Justice Project that had undertaken massive media reporter training on exact same lines for child abuse and juvenile criminals, one was told that “Ma’am even if we don’t give name our channel/editor wants it because others have done it OR the survivor come out.” The Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) extensively protects the privacy rights of the survivor and countless Supreme and High court judgements are available on this.

This was a reflection on their fraternity that has reporter-cum-anchor-cum-you-tubers that character assassinated Noor Mukadam, Sarah Inam and many other who were raped and killed because it gets them views.

They don’t give a damn how it will affect millions of woman and their families.

Just today Neo News , through their twitter handle, has claimed 90% of women living in hostels in Lahore are taking drugs and prostituting. This will cause a social media furore that will abuse women to the extreme length but no one will ask how this data was collected, what is the evidence and how the study was conducted. One can only ask where was the editor of the news channel and digital editor  when this story was commissioned? How could such an irresponsible thing be aired? Answer my friend is sensationalism

PEMRA banned reporting about this case – why? Yes it should have taken regulatory action against those channels that aired the copy of FIR with name and address of the rape survivor but should not have stopped reporting on it. But then again who cares.

Police training again is an area that has had substantial investment of aid agencies and here we are in Capital territory where the police is proudly on an extra judicial killing spree. It had the gall to tweet that the “Rapists killed in exchange of fire at a police post” knowing that the survivor and lawyers know that they have been apprehended and are in their custody.

That’s the confidence of being unaccountable that equates them with murderer. It’s the implementation of law that establishes rule of law which has been blatantly violated.

"There are serious question marks over the Islamabad Police's conduct in this case, where they arrested and killed the accused persons in their custody. Why would the Islamabad Police try to avoid trial of these accused persons? What was going to come out in that trial? What lapses in investigation and security are the police trying to cover-up? They have denied the survivor the right of access to justice," said  Sabrina Iqbal, Advocate.

We the women want the rapist and murderers to be punished to the maximum of law in shortest period of time. But on the other hand it will be two years in July and Noor Mukaddam’s case carries out. Or even Sarah Inam’s case which is still on despite 90 days period that finished long ago.

How does society treat women? For most women are just an object of sexual pleasure. Their sole purpose of being alive is to satisfy sexual needs of men. Once married it ‘s like a paid house help, kids production machine and a whore.

If not married any women that they can see is up for grabs, groping, assault, cat-call, rape or murder. Society condones it as it has pre-judged verdicts with baseless questions such why was she out of the house? What time it was? What was she wearing? Who was she with? And that’s all they need to label her characterless attracting men to come and rape her.

Then there is the religious dimension – an unveiled, un accompanied, unnecessarily out of the house woman is a walking seduction for men and of course they are no ‘robots’. This is against our family and religious culture. But when men rape women in the house irrespective of age whether a female is 6 months old or 60 years old, in the grave or in a home, the excuses boil down to the woman seducing the poor man by just being there or if anyone questions the rapist or abuser well then it is accepted as an an act of satan.

The question, however, remains that when women are abused, violated and raped within the four wall of the house - irrespective of age whether 6 months or 60 years, or in grave would they still be labelled seductresses? Or will a 6 month old baby murder as a means of denying  inheritance be called characterless? How long will these men who are caught killing and raping women continue to hide behind victim blaming that is imposed by society?

Till when will women keep on paying the price of their biological anatomy? That part of their bodies which is no less than any other muscle in the human body, how long will that be considered as ‘honour’?

When will they be considered human?

The State is oblivious to women’s abuse, law enforcement agencies are too incompetent to put up a case but then suddenly become competent enough to kill extra judicially. The judiciary loves vigilantism and Suo Moto but not for GBV, VAW and rape cases that are adding to pendency. And society is regressing to the time where it is going to be safer to bury girls at the time of birth in order to be honourable.