On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) expressed its deep concern over an increase in the violence against women, saying it was the strongest form of suppression of women and undermining of their self-esteem.
“Rape and especially gang rape is one of the worst forms of violence against women in Pakistani society, which claims itself to be an Islamic state and constantly repeats that it is promoting gender equality according to the teachings of Islam. In general, the state and the society are not seriously committed to getting rid of the menace of rape from Pakistani society. Instead, the government praises its policies to eradicate rape, though it has largely failed to diminish sexual violence from the society, to hold the perpetrators accountable and to alleviate the pain that a victim of rape bears for the rest of her life.
The issue of rape and gang rape has not been properly addressed to identify the root causes of this evil. The government and judiciary have both failed to stop the increasing incidents of rape and gang rape because of their gender-biased approach and adherence to old traditions,” said a statement issued by the AHRC.
The AHRC statement further said, “When a country declares itself a religious homogenous society, everything is seen through the spectacle of religion, demolishing the rights of the fragile section of society. On the one hand, the state and government say they are the custodians of Islamic teachings, while on the other they always ignore the rights of women and their treatment as a sexual commodity in society. This is the basic approach which is dominating Pakistani society and that is why it is difficult to attempt to eradicate rape and diagnose the root causes.”
Criticising the role of the government and society, the statement said, “The failure to protect women from sexual violence remains a matter of serious concern. It is emblematic of how a discriminatory patriarchal mindset permeating all spheres of the society, including the justice and policing system, continues to prevent women from enjoying their fundamental rights, freedom and dignity and hampers their active participation, equality and development, to the detriment of the general welfare of the Pakistani society.
Cases of rape and violence against women have increased tremendously and women have become more vulnerable on the one hand by the state repression, law enforcement agencies, biased behaviours of judiciary, and on the other hand through the Talibanisation of society. In all this, the most common thing is that the rape of women folk is not taken as a serious issue by the government, the judiciary and the law enforcement agencies.”
The statement continues, “Violence against women makes up 95 percent of the cases of violence reported in Pakistan. These statistics are even more chilling, bearing in mind that 70 percent of the cases of violence against women do not get registered. It is reported that a rape occurs in Pakistan every two hours and a gang rape every eight hours.
The persistence of violence against women in Pakistan reveals the failure of the judicial system, which is affected by a strong feudal system, religious and social taboos, traditions, customs, a homogeneous religious society, a vast gender gap and a policing system and sexual discrimination in economic and social activities. Women are treated as man’s property and rape has become a form of violence against women and also a method of revenge against men.”
“Lack of gender-focused education, sexual stereotypes and decadent myths impede the necessary growth of individuals and transitions in societal norms and attitudes. One of the reasons of the increasing incidents is the improper presentation of women and violence against them in the media, which never played a positive role to stop violence, but rather sensationalised cases of rape and on many occasions the media has put the burden of rape on the victims, blaming their personal characters.
The law enforcement authorities are one of the causes of promoting incidents of rape and strengthening the perpetrators by refusing to lodge cases of rape. A ‘false accuser’ phenomenon compels the victim not to report, which actually encourages the powerful people of the society to commit crimes with impunity and get away without much difficulty. As they are unable to find legal remedies, the families prefer to seek out of police and out of court solutions for rape,” the statement said.
“As women are still branded as carrying the “honour” of the family, rape is used as a way to seek revenge when a dispute arises between two families. The notion of “honour” being tarnished when a woman is raped only adds to the sufferings of the victims. Women have always been accused of tarnishing the honour of the family and are generally forced to marry the perpetrators, and in many cases the judicial officers compel the victim to marry the attacker. Women’s rights groups in Pakistan believe that a narrow interpretation of Shariah has proved harmful to the rights of women, as it reinforces popular attitudes and perceptions around a women’s body and sexuality. It also contributes to an atmosphere where discriminatory treatment of women is accepted more readily,” said the AHRC statement.
“Also in the incidents of rape, there are many cases which were reported in the media that women were paraded naked in the streets after some personal dispute or on the accusation of having an illicit relationship. The government usually announces that it will take strict action but, to date, not a single person has been convicted. Even in the cases of gang rape, the perpetrators get away with their crimes because of insufficient evidence from the prosecution and the patriarchal and biased attitude of the judiciary. The case of Mukhtaran Mai is the best example, where the matter remained pending for a very long time without any substantial progress,” the statement concluded.