Rape can be referred to as a type of sexual assault in which a person, deliberately, forces himself on another individual and get engaged in sexual activity against their will. Although, usually women fall victim to rape however, they are not the only ones who have to go through this suffering. Children and men are equally vulnerable to the crimes as heinous as rape. It is generally observed that men rape women. Nevertheless, individuals of same gender can also be raped.
Rape does not only cause physical injuries and pain to the victim, but its effects include long-term emotional trauma as well – especially among young women and children. These effects include but, certainly, are not limited to denial, self-blame, shame, nightmares, fear, depression, mood swings, numbness and difficulty trusting others etc. Rape incidents does not only shatter the victims emotionally but their families as well. Friends and family of these victims experience emotional injuries which also force them to develop a desire for revenge.
In the patriarchal societies as ours, rape is also defined as an instrument to impose male authority over a female. While on the other hand, the rape of a woman tends to damage the honor of male members and adversely impact the overall respect of the family. Although the rapists depicting their sick mentality and frustration can harm anyone regardless of the victim’s gender and age yet, usually the reported cases include incidents of rape against women and children by men.
It is believed that in Pakistan, rape culture is systemic and reinforced at every level. A person already surviving in a traumatic situation after being raped has to bear increased pressure owing to the criticism from the people around them. Unfortunately, it is the victim who is primarily blamed in our societies and not the culprit. In spite of rape being a crime in Pakistan, the manhandling of such situations by authorities along with the societal pressure on families as well as victims leave many rape cases unreported.
Rape is not the problem of a certain geographical area rather; it is a global problem. A study on Rape Statistics by Country 2021, highlights that approximately 35% of the women all around the world have experienced some sort of sexual harassment in their lifetime. The study also revealed with the help of available data that less than 40% of such women seek any sort of help and only less than 10% contact law enforcement authorities for assistance. The study on rape statistics globally reveal that women aged 16-19 years are four times while female college students aged 18-24 years are three times more likely to get raped. Transgender and disabled persons are two times more likely to get raped. As per the study, in the United States, 70% of the people committing rape are from the family or social circle of the victim. Furthermore, South Africa is studied to have the highest ratio of rape incidents i.e. 132.4 incidents per 1,00,000 people. The rate of rape cases in some other countries is as follows:
|Country||Rate (per 1,00,000 people)||No. of Incidents|
These statistics just give a general idea of the rape incidents around the world. The exact number cannot be calculated due to a number of reasons. The three major reasons are the unreported cases, evolving definition of rape and the varying categories of rape victims. Initially, rape was considered when any stranger would physically impose himself over the victim however, now the terms like ‘marital rape’ is also coming to the surface. Secondly, for a certain period of time, only women were considered to be raped. However, with the passage of time, men and children are also included and incidents like raping same gender have also been highlighted.
Women in Pakistan are also prone to get sexually assault and raped to a great extent. They are vulnerable everywhere. It does not matter if they are travelling, sitting in their homes, in police custody or a hostelite. Although, they have remained exposed since years, but the issue of rape in Pakistan came to spotlight and got international attention after the incident of Mukhtaran Bibi’s rape. Mukhtaran Bibi was gang raped by four men in the name of ‘honor’ while the rape was sanctioned by the local tribal council of the area.
According to the late lawyer and co-founder of women’s rights group ‘Women’s Action Forum’ Asma Jahangir, upto 72% women in custody are physically or sexually abused. Similarly, according to War Against Rape (WAR), a non-governmental organization based in Karachi working to publicize problems such as rape, over 82% of the rapists are actually the family members of the victims who include fathers, brothers, grandfathers and uncles etc.
According to a news story of one of the leading Pakistani English newspaper ‘The News’, at least 11 cases of rape are reported in Pakistan on daily basis while in the past six years, over 22,000 rape cases have been registered with police. It further mentions that only 77 accused have been sentenced which comprise only 0.3% of the total figure. These statistics were attained from Police, Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Women’s Foundation and provincial welfare agencies.
Police officials also believe that these statistics are based on only half of the rape incidents occurring in country because almost 50% of the cases are not reported. As per police, the actual number of rape cases in the last five years could be as high as 60,000. Furthermore, only 12% of the total cases i.e. 2,727 challans were filed in courts while only five percent of them i.e. 1,274 cases were given a decision and 1,192 of the accused were declared innocent.
As per the official data, out of the total reported rape cases; 18609 rape cases were reported in Punjab, 1,183 rape cases were reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 1,873 rape cases were reported in Sindh, 129 rape cases were reported in Baluchistan while 210 rape cases were reported in Islamabad during the last six years. Moreover, thirty-one cases were reported in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan but no accused was imprisoned.
Chaudhary Sarwar, currently serving as Governor Punjab, revealed in his statement that unfortunately, Pakistan falls among the 10 worst countries when it comes to rape cases. He further elaborated that from January 2014 to June 2017 i.e. during the past three and a half years, around 10,000 rape cases were registered in the Punjab province. On the other hand, around 2000 women were abducted during the last year, 80% of whom were allegedly raped and 15% of these women were killed.
The statement of Governor Punjab was further verified by a research conducted by one of the leading media outlets of the country. The research study showed that during the year 2014 around 2,669 women, during 2015 around 2,509 women, during 2016 around 2,938 women while during 2017 around 1,365 women were raped in Punjab. Similarly, around 2800 cases were registered in Punjab during 2018 while at least 3,881 rape cases were reported in Punjab during the year 2019.
A famous international Non-governmental organization (NGO), Human Rights Watch stated that on average at least one rape case takes place after every two hours while a gang rape shatters the honor and confidence of a Pakistani woman every hour. Gulf news, a daily English newspaper published from Dubai, stated in a report that an alarming increase have been witnessed in the cases of violence against women and children in Pakistan during the first quarter of 2020. A similar disturbing figure was published in another report.
A periodical report ‘Tracking crimes against people – A numeric tale of human insecurity’ was released by Human Rights Group ‘Sustainable Social Development Organization’ revealed in its findings that violence against women in Pakistan increased up to 200% during the first quarter of 2020. Likewise, on the basis of news stories related to issues of violence and assault reported in print media, the periodical concluded that the number of violence cases kept fluctuating during the period under study. The month of February 2020 witnessed a drop of 73% in the violence cases while a sharp increase of up to 360% was observed during March 2020.
Rape is categorized as a criminal offence in the law of Pakistan. Under Pakistani laws, the punishment for rape is either death penalty or imprisonment from ten to twenty-five years. However, for the cases related to gang rape, the punishment includes either death penalty or life-time imprisonment.
The President of Pakistan, Dr. Arif Alvi has signed a new ‘Pakistan Anti-Rape Ordinance 2020’ aiming to reinforce sentences. The new law was signed after Prime minister and his cabinet gave its approval. This ordinance will create a national sex offender register and protect the identity of victims as well. Moreover, the state will also show zero tolerance policy in some cases thus allowing chemical castration of the offenders. Special courts will be set-up to ensure that cases of rape and sexual assault are concluded within the period of four months.
Nevertheless, on 7 October 2016, the parliament of Pakistan unanimously passed an anti-rape and anti-honor killing bill titled as ‘Criminal Law (Amendment) (Offense of Rape) Act 2016’. This law made DNA testing mandatory in rape cases. The law also maintained that the government officials who are found taking advantage of their position and authority to commit rape e.g. custodial rape shall be liable to fine or lifetime imprisonment. It further declared that the offender raping mentally or physically disabled person will also be liable to death penalty or lifetime imprisonment.
Since August 2014, the government of Punjab has also introduced ‘Punjab Women Helpline’ to empower women across the Punjab province of Pakistan by calling on 1043. This application by Punjab Commission on the Status of Women actually provided a platform to females to seek support on social, legal as well as economic issues by providing them information regarding their rights, referrals to relevant departments and opportunities within the government. Since its launching, this toll-free application has ensured numerous success stories.
Social media, over the period of time, has become an important component of individual’s routine. Although initially it was being used to spend free time but now, it is even being used to start and promote businesses. In the same way, social media has become a great platform to raise voice on various issues including rapes and sexual assaults. It also plays a major role to create awareness among people and pressurize government and authorities to take timely measures and provide justice.
Social media platforms exercised its full potential in a number of heart wrenching cases of rape including motorway rape case and Zainab Ansari murder case etc. With the help of social media platforms, the news of such sexual assaults got publicized in no time with the help of images, write-ups and CCTV footages. Social media platforms also proved to be potential to convey concerns of public to the authorities. On the other hand, they have also been useful in creating awareness among people regarding their own protection as well as keeping a check on their surroundings.
There is no other opinion to the fact that the cases of rapes and sexual assaults have increased tremendously over the past few years. Although, media is giving due coverage to such incidents and authorities are also taking strict actions, yet multiple cases are being reported every now and then. It is also evident that the issue of rape is not only found in Pakistan rather; it is global problem. Therefore, it needs sensible solutions at all levels. Government, media, families, civil society as well as curriculum – a joint effort by all these platforms is required.
While the government is ensuring strict legislation to diminish confidence of offenders regarding such heinous crimes, media should also produce content that could create awareness among people regarding their own safety, kid’s safety as well as warn young adults to abide by committing such crimes. Media also need to highlight success stories of survivors who won cases against their assaulters and regained their confidence so that more victims can come back towards life and see the silver lining of their dark cloud. The role of curriculum is also significant. Educational institutions should also play their role in creating awareness among students by initiating discussions on such topics as well as equipping students with the ability of self-defense.
The families need to ensure a more friendly relationship with the victim if any such incident happens. Instead of suppressing the voice of the victim, he/she should be given enough confidence to take stand for his/her self-respect. Also, the families should ensure to become the support of victim and do not let people blame him/her for the unfortunate incident. Civil society need to initiate programs and arrange workshops with youth and parents and sensitize them about the issue. Meanwhile, efforts should also be ensured to equip people with strategies of self-defense and self-protection.
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