A woman was waiting for help, when a gang broke into her car, snatched her valuables, and raped her in front of her kids on the Motorway towards Gujranwala. A week before this incident, a dead body of 5 years old was found in Karachi, sexually abused and murdered.
Both the heinous cases have left the natives in horror and outrage. People are protesting since then on the roads of Karachi and the capital- Islamabad. They demand immediate actions against the rapist for the preset incidents and make long-term security measures for women and children, and end the violence against them.
Not only has these two incidences of rape cases shaken the public, but it has also caught global attention. The Diplomat published an article titled “Is Pakistan safe for women?” The New York Times, Arab News, Al-Jazeera, Gandhara- all have shown concern about the rising rape pandemic in the country. Rape cases in Pakistan gained attention internationally when in 2003, Mukhtaran Bibi was gang-raped in the name of ‘honor.’ A rape that was accepted tribally to maintain the status quo of the rules within the tribes in Punjab.
It is more concerning how the government has neglected to put the laws into application even if there is a consistent rise in the cases of rapes in the last years. According to facts revealed by the governor of Punjab, Pakistan is among the ten worst states in rape. Moreover, research has manifested that in 2018, approximately 3300 registered cases were in Punjab police, and in 2019 the figure rose to 3881. These horrific facts still do not shatter the policy implementers’ mind to provide basic safety for women and children.
Nevertheless, the non-governmental bodies and activists are on the roads showing outrage against the incidents. These considerably are in vain unless there is no step taken by the powerful bodies. The non-serious attitude of the government is not new. The laws have been flexible in favor of the elite. However, when it comes to the poor and the non-powerful, it does not cling.
The punishments for rapes and sexual assaults have been neglected by the policy implementers long ago. In 1978, a renowned film actress Shabnam was raped at her home, in front of her family. She filed a case but failed in getting her tormentors punished. The accused hailed from influential families and were taken to trial by the Special Military Court. The-then president, General Zia ul Haq, commuted the death sentence of the culprits. One of those tormentors, Farooq Bandial, joined PTI in 2018. However, he was expelled once the social media reopened his accusations.
Following the Shabnam’s case rose two more rape cases during the regime of General Zia. He even put up Hudood Ordinance 1979 in his period of Islamization of laws. Unfortunately, the rules were infamous for the striking condition that a woman who has been subjected as a victim of sexual crime should prove it with four male witnesses. This statement of the law was non-pragmatic and did no good for the security of women.
Later, in 2006, the Pakistan Penal Code was added with a new section. 254-A, which would give the accused of a sexual crime a harsh punishment, death penalty, life imprisonment or fine.
Not to mention, the amendments and rectifications in the laws came very late. There had been reported numerous rape cases until then. The cases never reduced but kept increasing anyhow. In 1983, Safia Bibi was raped by her landlord and his son. In the same year, Jehan Mina was raped by her uncle. In 1991, Farhana Hayat, a friend of Benazir Bhutto, was raped inside her own house. In 2004, Dr. Shazia Khalid was raped in Sui. In 2008, another case was reported, Firdaus Bibi, raped in the Sui gas residential compound. In 2013, Kainat Soomro was raped in Mehar, Sindh. Then, in 2018 Zainab case strike the attention of many.
These are only those who were reported and brought to the limelight by media. There are cases where a family does not want to highlight a case themselves out of fear of losing their honor or fearing being threatened by the accusers. More critically, heart-wrenching is to realize that all the rapists and sexual violators went unpunished. Not to exaggerate, but the history of rape in Pakistan is deadly.
Unfortunately, today, after the Gujranwala rape-in-the-car case and in Karachi’s 5-year-old-raped case, activists have raised voices, not for the victims’ sake. They are also using their voice as a tool for opposition against the government. There is a sound uprising with social media bombarded with hashtags, which instantly dissolves in thin air, not after a long time. The cases are forgotten, and the government is kicking as before. The government’s attitude is what has to be pondered, and it must work to correct public behavior.
If a change is required in the stats of sexual violence against women and children, action must be taken. Renown sociologist Emile Durkheim said that unless the wrongs are not condemned publicly, the act would not be erased. Public damnation is necessary for crimes that kill the basic human safety and security of any individual.